Johannesburg - “The fact that I am not in Australia is really motivating me to score as many runs as I can,” Ryan Rickelton stated after another match-winning performance for the DP World (Central Gauteng) Lions in the CSA One-Day Cup on Sunday.
Rickelton, along with Western Province’s Tony de Zorzi, are the two inform batters on the domestic circuit but for Rickelton, his omission from the Proteas touring squad for the three Test series Down Under, hurts.
He made 99 on Sunday in the Lions’ victory over the Gbets (Boland) Rocks, falling one run short of what would have been his fourth century in the past month.
“I’m obviously desperate to get back in the Test team again and pushing hard for an ODI spot, which would be great. The fire is burning inside me, I want to play at a higher level,” said the 26-year-old left-hander.
Rickelton wasn’t considered for the Australia tour due to an ankle ailment, which he acknowledges requires surgery, but which he is managing as part of a plan drawn up by the Lions physiotherapist, Ziyaad Mahomed.
“Our physio was probably the most disappointed out of all of us, to be honest, because he and I sat down, structured a full plan for how we would get this right, how we would be fit for Australia, the SA 20 and the rest of the summer.”
Rickelton said he tore the anterior talo-fibular ligament in his left ankle a few years ago. The problem was picked up following the tour to England earlier this year, when it started to hurt.
“The surgeon reckons it's been there for two or three years and I’ve just taken it over the edge now, along with the bone spur. There is no hiding it, I do need an operation. But, the plan was in place – with platelet injections (using the patients blood cells to treat an affected area) and proper management for me – to get through the summer, because the surgeon said I’d be fit to play the next six to 12 months. We are still sticking to that.”
Cricket SA’s medical committee felt it was too much of a risk to take Rickelton to Australia, but he said he felt disappointed that the plan he, Mahomed and his surgeon drew up, was seemingly ignored.
“I was disappointed with how it all unfolded. I had a week or two to sulk about it, but that’s not going to get me anywhere, I’ve got to make sure I’m putting my hand up.”
Asked if there was any discomfort while batting or keeping, he replied: “Nothing, absolutely nothing.”
His form certainly makes the selectors look silly for not including him for the Australia tour, especially given South Africa’s batting problems of the past few years.
“As a player, no one’s out there to make anyone look foolish, but if you find yourself in a situation where you can really stamp your authority as a person and player on whoever it may be, a lot of players use that as motivation,” said Rickelton.
“There’s a lot of players around who probably have a very similar taste in their mouth. It’s an opportunity to showcase yourself, to push your own case, it’s something every player has to do because no one is going to push it for you.”
His streak with the bat follows a pattern for Rickelton that has seen him arguably be the country’s most consistent batter at domestic level.
In the past three seasons Rickelton, who played three Tests this year, two of those against Bangladesh when some senior batters headed to the IPL, has scored six centuries in 14 first-class matches. He’s also scored a hundred for the SA A team against their Zimbabwean counterparts last year and this year, passed 50 in six out of eight innings during a brief stint with English County, Northamptonshire, turning two of those into hundreds.
“To get that consistency is what every cricketer is after. I’ve learnt a lot in the past few years and when the wave is high, you make sure it stays high for as long as you can. Obviously I want a really good month here and then another seriously good month in January is something I’m really after. As long as the wave is up for the next while, I’ll be very happy.”