DURBAN - In the midst of yet more talk of South African players heading over to finish their careers in the county scene, one man is proving that the grass most certainly can be greener on the other side.
When Daryn Smit left the Dolphins, after over a decade of service as a batsman, wicket-keeper, captain and also leg-spinner, there was nothing but well wishes.
“Speech”, as he is known to his Durban friends, was in an awkward position at the Dolphins, as the captain - Morne van Wyk - had exactly the same cricketing credentials.
Smit was spending more time playing amateur cricket than he should have been, especially considering the form that he was in. When Derbyshire made him an offer to play county cricket, it was a no-brainer, as he and wife Sarah set off for a new life in the English countryside.
Fast forward five months into his role at Derbyshire, and Smit has made such an impression that he was handed the captaincy for three matches in the T20 Blast.
Even considering his leadership experience, things have happened quickly.
“The captaincy was very unexpected,” Smit said. “It is always an honour and a privilege to lead a side, but it is unusual for a newcomer. I guess it is a sign that I have made a decent impression."
To say that Smit has made an immediate impression on his employers is an understatement.
When Derbyshire signed him, they knew that he bowled a fair bit of leg-spin, and was a highly-rated middle-order batsman.
His keeping soon won rave reviews, with one Derbyshire newspaper commenting that it was as accomplished as some of the very best seen on the county scene in years.
“Having the gloves back on has been really good, and I feel like I have got my love back for cricket,” Smit explained.
Happily, the Derbyshire Falcons marked their short-term leader’s opening game with a tense, three-wicket win over Durham on Tuesday night.
Smit was there at the end, at the crease with fellow South African, Hardus Viljoen, as Derbyshire kept their interest in the competition alive.
“It was a perfect start. We got a great win at home, and we are still in with a chance. We’ve got a really good white-ball squad, and we are heading in the right direction,” Smit enthused.
The Derbyshire team has a strong South African flavour to it, with Smit joining regular skipper Wayne Madsen, Viljoen as well as overseas pro for the T20 competition, Imran Tahir.
Smit explained that the squad still has its challenges, but that he was loving being involved on the county scene on a full-time basis.
“We are going well in white-ball cricket. I think, to be honest, we have struggled to get 20 wickets in red-ball cricket. Personally, batting against the Duke ball has been a challenge. It moves around for 80 overs, and I think the Test series showed how difficult it can be for players coming over here.”
That said, he is relishing the challenge, and the fact that Derbyshire still maintain an interest for a trophy, in his debut season, is even more exciting.
The gamble he took, in leaving the familiarity of Durban for a fresh adventure, is paying off - even sooner than "Speech" may have expected.