Underrated centurion Dom Hendricks going through his paces to the next level
JOHANNESBURG - The phrase ‘underrated’ cropped up often on commentary when Dominic Hendricks came onto the screen during the Lions’ win against the Knights at the Wanderers this week.
The stand-in Lions captain, has been ‘underrated,’ for a good few seasons, and even in recent summers, as he’s churned out the runs, he’s remained ‘underrated.’ But the runs keep coming, whether in the 50-over competition or the four-day series, and surely the point will be reached when the left-hander can be ‘underrated,’ no more.
Hendricks isn’t flashy, and while possessed of some stylish strokeplay, his shotmaking doesn’t take the breath away like his right-handed namesake Reeza. But Dominic keeps scoring runs and this season, just three matches into the domestic summer, he is one of just two players - the other being Aiden Markram - to have made two centuries. Both of Markram’s hundreds came in the match against the Warriors this week, when he virtually fought a lone hand with the bat for the Titans.
Hendricks’ two hundreds came in very different circumstances and illustrate a player that is able to adjust his game to the rhythms of the match he is playing and the needs of his team.
His first hundred of the season, a score of 130 out of a Lions first innings total of 324 against the Cape Cobras, was a gritty effort, taking him over five hours, on a lively Wanderers pitch under mostly overcast skies. It's the type of innings that many associate with Hendricks.
His second, as part of a record setting, match winning opening partnership of 256 with Josh Richards against the Knights, was more free-flowing and he showed greater intent.
It was a special innings for him for a number of reasons; his team won - a vital match given they’d lost in the first week and then drawn against the Cobras when they felt they should have won - he batted well, but also the role he played in helping 21 year old Richards, a precocious talent, with a bright future.
“I got the sense that when (the Knights) came out to bowl in the second innings, that they felt we would just roll over like we did in the first innings. It didn’t happen, they tried too hard to get us out and didn’t land enough balls in the right areas. After the first two or three overs, they tried even harder and harder, and they bowled worse and worse and we were quick to jump onto that,” said Hendricks.
“I kept telling Josh, ‘these guys are down, we need to stay on top here because as soon as we give them an ‘in’ in the game, they could pounce on it and the game could potentially change.'"
“I was chatting to him a lot and making him understand, if we do most of the damage between us, given the way the wicket was playing, then it would turn out beautifully for us on the fourth day.”
That transpired and in the process they broke an almost 20 year old record for the first wicket at the Wanderers, and helped their team to record run chase in a first class match at the famous venue. Richards got a fine century, and Hendricks was as happy for his young partner as he was for himself. “He’s gotten in on a couple of occasions, but didn’t capitalise, and I think what he’s started learning is that it's important to cash in after a good start."
"Getting your first one is very very difficult. I remember, it took me a really long time to get my first one, but once I got that, lots of things fell into place a lot better afterwards.”
Hendricks’ goal this season was to pick up where he left off last summer, as quickly as he could. “I felt I’ve performed decently in the last few seasons, but obviously not good enough to throw my name in the hat for the next level. The main thing was that I needed to hit the ground running. I felt good in pre-season, and the plan was to make sure I get a score in, in the first few games of the season, just so that I don’t feel under pressure... get it out of the way nice and early and then get on a run and keep that going as I’ve done in the past.”
The sense that a fresh breeze is blowing through the Proteas is a motivating factor for all the franchise players at the moment. Everyone is aware the national side - Covid-19 permitting - will be playing a lot over the next 12 months and that players will need a break, opening up the possibility of giving some new faces opportunities.
“Guys are always trying to get to that next level, but it's about following a process in getting there; number one, you’ve got to be scoring runs or taking wickets, but on top of that is the scenario where the (franchise) team must be put first and your performances are winning games for the team. So hundreds like Josh and I scored (Thursday) might have more weight than a hundred in a ‘dead-rubber’ game for example."
"We always say ‘don’t worry about getting to the next level, as long as the team is winning, and you are contributing to the team winning, the rest takes care of itself and your name will stand up like Rassie and Reeza, who are playing for the Proteas at the moment.”
Having started the season well, and having played a big role in the Lions first win of the summer, Hendricks does not want to let up. “It’s important to keep running with this form and importantly not to get complacent,” he said.
“A lot of times you are playing well, you can easily take for granted you are playing well and forget that you have to start again next week. You have to get into the same processes as before and start again.”