JOHANNESBURG - Ryan Rickelton used the disappointment of being dropped from the Imperial Lions’ four-day side to fuel a hot start in the Momentum One-Day Cup.
Rickelton’s red hot form, coupled with that of Zubayr Hamza at the Cape Cobras and Grant Roelofson at the Dolphins will come as big boost for the those responsible for putting in place plans for the 2023 World Cup. All three under the age of 25 and will be pushing hard for top order spots over the next few years.
The 23 year old Rickelton, opened the tournament with an innings of 92 against the defending champions the Titans at SuperSport Park two weeks ago and followed that up last week with a career best 157 against the Cape Cobras in Paarl.
“He was one of our frontline batsmen at the start of the four-day competition, but then we brought in Josh Richards and Dominic Hendricks ( at the top of the order) and I think he just went, ‘look I belong in this team.’ He trained very hard and he is reaping some of those rewards,” said the Lions head coach Wandile Gwavu.
Rickelton only scored 36 runs across four innings in the four-day competition, although he’s not had the chance to properly cement a spot. In the first match of the season, he opened the batting and last month, he played in the middle order and was wicket-keeper in the Lions’ defeat to the Dolphins in Pietermaritzburg.
There are no doubts about where he bats in the One-Day team, however at the top of the order where he is more comfortable. “It was made clear to him, the only currency that matters to me as a coach is runs and wickets. He’s been making runs, so he plays.”
Rickelton has widely been viewed as a future star, but needs to add consistency to his talent. There is plenty of competition for top order batting berths in Gauteng as well. Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Richards and Dominc Hendricks all provide options, which keeps everyone on their toes.
Rickelton has been dismissed by a spinner in both innings in the One-Day Cup, highlighting a concern raised by some observers about a perceived weakness against slow bowlers. Gwavu, who has worked with the national under-19 team, believes Rickelton will overcome problems through hard work.
“As a country we have struggled to identify guys who are good players of spin, it's one of our big challenges. What I will say about Ryan is, he is working very hard, and whenever there is a spin bowler around, he is very clear about his game plan and he is strong about what he is good at.
One thing I admire about him is he is aware of what he is not good at, but he makes sure those things don’t get him out.”
Gwavu highlighted the Lions playing well in partnerships as being key to their victories in their first two matches.
“Those partnerships have been vital. Obviously Ryan’s playing well, but he’s been getting good support. In our first match he had two good partnerships with Temba and then one with Rassie in the opening game and against the Cobras he and Dom also had a big one.” Rickelton has been involved in four of the 12 highest partnerships thus far in the tournament a testimony to his form, and the Lions’ teamwork.
They will face a stiff examination in Port Elizabeth on Friday against a Warriors team that usually plays well at home and has also proved a difficult opponent for the Lions in the past. For Gwavu the game carries extra incentive. “I’m from the Eastern Cape, and it’s my first match coaching as a head coach in PE, so I am very excited,” said Gwavu, who took over after Enoch Nkwe was employed full time as the Proteas’ assistant coach.
Friday (start - 1.30pm) - Warriors vs Imperial Lions, Port Elizabeth; VKB Knights vs HollywoodBets Dolphins, Bloemfontein.
Sunday (10am) - Imperial Lions vs WSB Cape Cobras, Potchefstroom.@ShockerHess IOL