Since the turn of the year, no batsman in the domestic game - save for Aiden Markram, perhaps - has scored as heavily and as destructively as Vaughn van Jaarsveld of the Dolphins. And yet, despite a run of form that saw him thump 799 runs in the four-day competition, at a season’s-best average of nigh-on 68, he still missed out on national duty over the winter.
“I am obviously disappointed, because I feel as if I am in some of the best form of my life. Getting a call-up at the next level is what we all aspire to, because we all want to represent our country,” the twice-capped top-order batsman explained.
Some of Van Jaarsveld’s ball-striking in January truly took the breath away, as he almost single-handedly kept the Dolphins interested in the Sunfoil Series dust-up.
The southpaw attributes that purple patch to a period of introspection over the December holidays, when there was a break for the domestic scene.
“I wrote down a few goals for myself. One of those was to get over 700 runs, which I managed to do. I was just very determined to do well for the team, and then see where I ended when the season was over,” he explained.
He didn’t relent in the one-day format, either, as he plundered 444 runs off the white ball, with a strike rate bettered only by the brazen Richard Levi (in terms of players who breached the 400 run-mark).
Even then, he was batting atop the order, in a position not too familiar.
“It was what we needed as a team, but something a bit different. It didn’t go as well as the red-ball matches, but I was happy to contribute.”
The Dolphins finished the season in disappointing fashion, falling away in a Momentum One-Day Cup competition they led for a long period.
At term end, Khaya Zondo was named in the SA “A” side, but his regular partner-in-crime with the bat missed the cut.
“Vaughn was definitely considered, because he has had a very good season for the Dolphins,” national convener of selectors Linda Zondi told Independent Media.
“His name definitely came up, but we must remember that our priority is to serve the needs of the Proteas, and we are trying to find more all-rounders at the moment.
“If you look at a guy like Robbie Frylinck, then he also has reason to be disappointed, because he had a great season, too. Unfortunately, we can’t pick everyone, and most of the guys we have as specialist batsmen in the ‘A’ side are either in the Proteas set-up, or on the fringes,” Zondi continued.
“We have to give them the best possible chance to prepare for what will be a massive series against England, and that has to take priority right now.”
Zondi did maintain that the door was not closed on the 32-year-old Van Jaarsveld - or anyone else for that matter - especially given the form he has shown in the past 18 months.
“As long as a player is available for selection, the door is never closed. A guy like Heino Kuhn has waited for years and years, and he is still knocking on the Proteas door, as an opener and maybe even as a keeping option, if needed. No one would have thought Stephen Cook would make his Test debut at 34, but it happened. That is how the game goes sometimes,” Zondi reiterated.
For Van Jaarsveld, then, the challenge seems to be to do even more in the coming season, as Cook did just before he finally got his call-up. He was second in the run stakes for four-day cricket last year, with the best average, and in the top six for the one-day stuff.
It wasn’t enough. Perhaps, he will have to do as Cook did, and make his point by sheer weight of runs and public opinion. It is just that tough at the top.