JOHANNESBURG – Ryan Rickelton’s first week in the Mzansi Super League has been one for the memory bank and it’s included giving his coach a headache ahead of a big clash at the weekend.
The 22-year-old’s first taste of the Cricket South Africa’s flash new T20 competition saw him stride out to the middle of the Wanderers to open the batting for the Jozi Stars alongside Chris Gayle.
You never think that will happen,” said Rickelton.
Three days later he came within touching distance of notching up the competition’s first century in Paarl.
It didn’t bother him too much that he was dismissed for 91. The important part for Rickelton was the primary role he played in helping the Stars to their first win in the tournament - and with a bonus point for good measure.
The MSL is a vital part of Rickelton’s growth as a professional cricketer.
From the ever-growing production line of players from St Stithians College, Rickelton played alongside Kagiso Rabada and Wiaan Mulder in that institution’s first team - “we used to smoke teams,” he said - and is looking forward to sharing the field with Rabada, most likely on Saturday when the Cape Town Blitz visit the Wanderers.
Rickelton’s 91 in Paarl came off 59 balls and included seven fours and three sixes, and as aggressive as it was, Rickelton’s not even sure if that’s the way he wants to or even should be playing.
“I’m still trying to find my natural game,” he said. “I just want to impose myself, get into the bowlers. I look to hit the long ball, although sometimes I don’t think I can hit a six on some of these grounds.”
Various coaches and senior Proteas players have all made it clear how important the MSL will be in the development of young talent and the opening week of the tournament has already proved that to be true.
From the Blitz’s Kyle Verrynne, to that team’s fast bowler Anrich Nortje, and this week Rickelton, the country’s youthful talent has certainly come to the fore.
“I opened the batting with Chris Gayle last weekend which was unbelievable... You can only learn and make yourself better as a player. That’s what will happen for all the young players.
“I chatted with Chris a bit I asked him a couple of things about batting, conditions, what he looks to do. He told me a few things regarding how to construct an innings - that it’s not bad to start slow and you can always catch up. It’s what I tried to do (on Tuesday). Chris is a great person to talk to about that because he’s the best in the world.”
No longer is Rickelton in awe of sharing the field or dressing room with the elite, either.
“I was a bit starstruck last season when I was picked for the Lions in the RamSlam (T20) and we had all our Proteas. I remember standing in the field on my debut thinking, ‘this is cool hey’. I really enjoyed it. Over time you learn they are the same as you, trying to do what they can do.
“The guys in our team are awesome. Chris is a nice guy, Dan Christian is a nice guy... Dane (Vilas) and Simon (Harmer), they make you feel at home; it’s nice to be in their presence and nice to tackle them with your skills.”
He may very well be competing with them for a place in the starting team too, which will give Stars coach Enoch Nkwe a real headache ahead of this weekend’s clash.
Nkwe will have Rabada, Reeza Hendricks and Dwaine Pretorius back from the Proteas and it will make for an intriguing selection meeting ahead of the meeting with the Blitz.@shockerhess