Ryan Rickelton hoping good performances might bring a Proteas call-up
The results for the Proteas this summer have made for ugly reading. One has to go back to March last year to find the last series win by the South African men’s team - a 3-0 victory at home in a T20 International series against Sri Lanka.
The team is in the midst of transition. A new coaching staff is trying to find the best blend of combinations and tactics to make the team successful once again. Below the international level, players are seeing opportunities - and for Mark Boucher and interim Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith, that is very good news.
“South Africa is going through a bit of a transition phase,” remarked, the Lions’ 23 year old left-hand opener Ryan Rickelton. “They have lost a lot of players. There are a lot of spots available and as you see, there have been a lot of opportunities for guys of all ages.”
“I think any player, well, most guys across the country will want to do well now because there are chances that will come their way and spots that need to be filled. If your name is hopefully up there you have every chance to get into the (Proteas) side, and cricket’s a funny game, you get one chance you make it work and you never know what can happen from there, you can take it and run. All the guys, myself included, are very conscious of it. Everyone is working overtime to really make sure that the last bit of this season and beginning of next season they really put their hands up.”
Indeed now is the time to be putting one’s name into selection conversations. Any ambitions to play in the 2023 World Cup require players to be scoring runs and taking wickets now. From the latter stages of next season, attention will turn to that event, and players who make an impression in the period Rickelton mentioned will be given an opportunity to start cementing their places.
Rickelton is amongst a group of young players - all in the top order - who have demanded the spotlight in this season’s Momentum One-Day Cup. The competition’s top three run-scorers; Zubayr Hamza, Grant Roelofson and Rickelton are all 24 years or younger.
Rickelton’s game is based on aggression, and taking risks, something he believes will benefit him as he chases those World Cup dreams. “It’s not that easy (being bold and taking risks). But the way the game is going, you see a lot more players are out there like that. You look at (Janneman) Malan, (Matthew) Breetzke, Roelofson and Marques (Ackerman) ….it’s a more modern way of playing. It is high risk, high reward, but you train hard for a reason and make sure your risks are one of your strengths. If you’re sticking within what you train for, at least you can be happy or satisfied that if it doesn’t come off it will come off another day I guess.”
Rickelton, Hamza and Roelofson have all scored their runs at strike-rate of over 100 this season.
For them, Breetzke and Malan, opportunities to make an impression may not only be limited to the franchise competitions. Smith is looking to elevate the status of the South African A side, and will be aiming to create more tours and series for that side over the next 18 months, building it into a proper ‘next best’ squad in the country.
Rickelton, who garnered plenty of attention in the first edition of the Mzansi Super League in 2018, for now is just concentrating on being successful for the Lions and trying to help them win a trophy.
His 324 runs in four Momentum Cup innings included a career-best 157 against the Cape Cobras in Paarl, in the second game in the competition. He admits that the season is only really starting for him, and that personal goals set at the start haven’t been achieved. “I only played one four day game, it was a bit disappointing - I really want to get back into that four-day side, because that is a format I want to do well in as well.
This season’s MSL didn’t go well either, with Rickelton being moved from his best position at the top of the order, to the middle, so that Chris Gayle, who disappointed in the competition, could be accomodated. “Obviously I was disappointed with the Mzansi Super League, I was batting at six, it was unfamiliar for me, so I couldn’t make my mark on the tournament, like I wanted to and like I did the year before. Until now, it was a bit of a slow season, so I just want to make sure I can cash in at the back end, do as well as I can to warrant getting another season and hopefully walk away at the end of March with something under my belt.”
The Lions face the Knights at the Wanderers on Wednesday night, where Rickelton will come up against another young top order batsman, Raynard van Tonder. The former SA under-19 captain has made a name for himself this season, especially in the Four-Day series. “Raynie is a class player, technically correct and hits the ball bloody hard which is frightening,” said Rickelton.
Although Van Tonder hasn’t produced a big score in the One-Day Cup yet, he is another young top order player, who is going to be demanding attention once players for 2023 start being assessed properly.
Now is the time to be seeking the spotlight. Rickelton and others in his age bracket are acutely aware of that and it must be pleasing for Smith and Boucher that that is the case.@shockerhess