Wayne Parnell putting no pressure on himself after being picked for Proteas
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Johannesburg – Wayne Parnell did not return to South Africa expecting the national selection convenor to call him asking if he’d like to have a go at international cricket again.
That ship had sailed for Parnell and he was happy to watch it drift out to sea. But then that phone call from Victor Mpitsang, duly arrived. “I didn’t set out my stall to come back into South African cricket, and play for the Proteas,” the 32 year old said on Thursday. “I was happy coming back to Western Province, to try and add value into this environment, and it led to these bigger things - being called up again.”
Parnell was a surprising inclusion in the Proteas squad for the three match One-Day International series against the Netherlands later this month. He played the last of his 111 international matches in October 2017 – a Test against Bangladesh in Bloemfontein.
Since then the English County circuit has been home with a Kolpak stint at Worcestershire, followed by a season with Northamptonshire as an overseas professional this year after Kolpak contracts were made null and void by Brexit. “It’s been a crazy journey in the last couple of years,” he remarked.
The end of the Kolpak era has seen the return of a number of players to local shores; Stiaan van Zyl, Hardus Viljoen, Kyle Abbott and Duanne Olivier amongst them. Parnell is the first former Kolpak player to get picked for the Proteas, since those types of contracts were dissolved.
Proteas head coach Mark Boucher said earlier this week that the door remained open for former Kolpak players, but that their selection for the national side would be based on form in South Africa’s competitions. Parnell has performed reasonably well without lighting up the domestic scene at the start of the season, but his leadership has been critical at Western Province.
Parnell says his time in England and playing in various T20 leagues around the world have been invaluable in making him a better and more thoughtful player. “I am more experienced having played in different set ups, picking players' brains, I wouldn’t say I am a completely different player, I’m just more experienced.”
“Whether I play or not play in the series (against the Netherlands), I’ve given myself an opportunity and as I’ve played in different teams, people have seen the value that I can add. And this is a little bit of reward for showing that, whether it is performing consistently, or showing value in a different aspect by helping people.”
Parnell played six Tests, 65 ODIs and 40 T20 Internationals between 2009 and 2017, taking 150 wickets across the three formats. Despite playing that many matches, and going to World Cups in both 50 and 20 over formats, he was never seen as a fixture in the side. “When you are playing international cricket, it’s a little bit different, because even within the squad there’s a lot of competition for a particular place and I don’t think there is a lot of helping with each other’s game and stuff, because I’m fighting for my spot and the other player is fighting for their spot, and when there were more senior players, the transfer of information and knowledge wasn’t as forthcoming,” he said.
That outlook has changed for Parnell in the last four years. “My way of looking at cricket now is completely different, yes I know what I can do and I feel comfortable with what I can bring to any particular team. That’s been my biggest focus in the last couple of years, focussing on myself and not on the next guy and what he’s doing.”
Parnell’s chat with Mpitsang offered little clarity about the all-rounder’s long term plans with the Proteas. For that he’ll need to talk to Boucher. The Proteas are resting a number of senior players – including limited overs captain, Temba Bavuma, for the series against the Dutch. “I have no expectations going into this series,” said Parnell.
“Is there an opportunity going forward? I am still young enough, I’m playing good cricket, I feel I can still contribute certainly at domestic level and we’ll have to see, once I get back into that (Proteas) set up.”