South African cricket is enjoying its most prosperous period, specifically the Test unit. Fifteen consecutive Tests without defeat, five wins on the trot and 50 Test victories for the skipper Graeme Smith.
These are all achievements that need to be lauded. And to make the pudding taste even sweeter, the emergence of Kyle Abbott, along with Rory Kleinveldt and Marchant de Lange, has shown that South Africa’s reserve fast-bowling cupboard is not that bare as the Proteas bowling coach Allan Donald alludes to so often.
However, with every success story, there are often people left behind as the victory bus carries on. Sometimes it is due to their own shortcomings, sometimes bad luck plays its part, while there also occasions where they have been badly managed. I am not offering any of the above three reasons for their recent failures, but I am terribly concerned with the progress of Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell.
It was January 30, 2009, at the Waca in Perth that South Africa named the two debutants from the Eastern Cape in their one-day line-up to face Australia, who were then still triple world champions. It was exciting times for South African cricket. The duo were not only from previously disadvantaged communities, but they could bowl left-arm and swing the ball. It was a unique moment in South African cricket. Gone were the days of right-arm, fast-medium robots being shot out of the domestic first-class factory.
Tsotsobe signalled his intentions with four wickets on his debut before Parnell achieved plenty of accolades through strong performances over the next summer. For both bowlers, their success was primarily in one-day cricket, but it was always hoped they would transfer it to the cauldron of Test cricket.
Both were handed their green caps as time progressed, although neither took their opportunity to cement places in the Test line-up. Those were not disgraceful performances, but it was not headline-grabbing stuff.
My concern now, though, runs deeper than that as they have both slipped off the limited-overs radar too. Tsotsobe is still a part of the Proteas limited-overs squads – both T20 and ODI – but has been a shadow of the bowler who rose to No 1 on the ICC ODI rankings just last year. Likewise, Parnell has struggled to replicate the form that saw him being the leading wicket-taker at the ICC Champions Trophy the last time it was held four years ago here in South Africa.
Both bowlers have struggled with a variety of injuries over the past couple of seasons, especially Parnell. However, Tsotsobe too has recently been laid low with an ankle complaint that has forced him to the sidelines. There was no doubt his Dolphins franchise needed his skill-set against a rampant Cape Cobras batting unit in a T20 clash last Sunday.
Graeme Smith often speaks about the maturity of the Test side – the ability to fully focus on their preparation to ensure they are able to operate at optimum capacity once gametime arrives. Tsotsobe and Parnell are both young and free-spirited, but perhaps the time has arrived where their special talents are simply not taken for granted.
Tsotsobe has already moved out of his comfort zone in the Eastern Cape and hopefully, once he recovers, he can find his mojo again. Likewise, a change of scenery for Parnell could be the tonic he needs to rediscover the magic that made him the most-talked-about young cricketer four years ago.
There are strong rumours linking him with a move to Cape Town and the Cobras, which could have a lot to do with playing for a coach like Paul Adams, who understands his needs. He will also be closer to his mentor Vinnie Barnes, with whom he shares a great bond.
South African cricket is reaping the rich fruits of its labour at present, but it could be so much healthier if these two “Lost Boys” find their way again.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@sanjaymanjrekar (former India top-order batsman): Nice banter here. Warne suggesting to his former capt Alan Border that he was always a ‘giver’.AB says” Yes, you gave me a lot of grief “: )
WHO TO FOLLOW
@WayneParnell: Proteas left-arm bowler.