Proteas coach Russell Domingo has laid down a new challenge for Wayne Parnell. Photo by Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

Wayne Parnell has always been thrust with responsibility from a very young age. He was picked for the South African under-19 team while still in Grade 10, led the team to a World Cup final two years later, handed an international debut while still in his teens, and now his Proteas coach Russell Domingo has laid down a new challenge for the 24-year-old left-arm paceman.

South Africa’s concerns over injured pace spearhead Dale Steyn are intensifying in the lead-up to Saturday’s World T20 opener against Sri Lanka at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, and Domingo has called on his former Eastern Cape protégé to raise his game and fill the big shoes of Steyn.

“Parnie has been around a while and is starting to fulfil the potential we have always known him to have. It is important that he starts playing a more senior role, particularly with a guy like Dale not around,” Domingo said last night after South Africa thrashed Pakistan by eight wickets in their final warm-up game.

Steyn missed the Pakistan clash in Fatullah after aggravating his hamstring strain in the previous warm-up match against Bangladesh A on Monday. Cricket South Africa has indicated that the world’s premier fast bowler “will continue to receive treatment from the physiotherapist to give him the best chance of recovery for the opening match”.

Parnell certainly seemed to relish the extra responsibility last night claiming 2/2, which included the wickets of Umar Akmal and Mohammed Hafeez, in his 1.3 overs. It formed part of a strong bowling performance from the South Africans, who dismissed Pakistan for 71, with fellow left-armers Lonwabo Tsotsobe (2/15) and Beuran Hendricks (2/3) also in the wickets.

Domingo was particularly impressed with the way Hendricks adapted to the conditions on his first tour to the subcontinent with the Proteas. “The guys have bowled well, there was a bit of pressure in the game, so we can take a lot out of that.

“The bowlers have bowled intelligently, mixed up the pace well which is always going to be important here. But we have also heard the wicket in Chittagong is a bit different so we have to assess when we get there.

“Beuran is obviously still young, but has shown lots of potential and ability to learn quickly and it’s great to have in the mix after a great domestic season,” Domingo said.

The World Twenty20 has routinely launched the international careers of young players. In fact, it was this tournament in 2009 in England where Parnell put in his most spectacular performances for the Proteas thus far.

Aged 19 and having only recently left his alma mater Grey High in Port Elizabeth, the young man from Booysens Park rattled the world’s top batsmen with his pace and swing, claiming nine wickets at an economy rate of under six runs an over. It was these types of heroics that helped the Proteas progress to the semi-finals at Trent Bridge in Nottingham – which still remains South Africa’s best placing at the World T20.

Parnell earned immediate financial rewards, with the Delhi Daredevils handing him a $610 000 IPL contract. Unfortunately for Delhi and South African cricket, Parnell incurred a groin injury afterwards and has been plagued by injury and inconsistent form ever since.

Domingo, though, has nurtured Parnell’s career from a young age and will hope that with solid support and backing from a team management – former Eastern Province Academy coach Adrian Birrell is Domingo’s assistant – who understands his mental make-up, SA cricket will hopefully get the best out of the often eccentric fast bowler who remains capable of bowling in excess of 145km/h in addition to his skill factor. - Cape Argus