Dolphins ride Pro20 wave with pride

2011-02-19 19:16

This year’s Standard Bank Pro20 has thrown up a number of surprises, not least of which is the form of the Dolphins, who became the first team to qualify for the semifinals on the back of three consecutive wins.

At the start of the competition the KwaZulu-Natal franchise was considered to be one of the rank outsiders for the tournament.

During the 2009/10 season the Dolphins endured a miserable Pro20 as they failed to win any of their matches.

Their poor season saw the team decide on drastic measures. They opted not to renew the contracts of five senior ­players and chose to focus on youth policy.

The decision seems to be paying dividends as the Dolphins qualified for the semifinals of the MTN40 while their run to the Pro20 semis speaks volumes for the rapidly maturing squad.

Not surprisingly, coach ­Graham Ford is delighted with his team’s progress.

“We set out on the rebuilding phase and we are probably ahead of where we thought we would be,” Ford said this week.

“Because of where the group is, we talk more about improving our play and the contributions each of us can make. For us every win we can grab is a huge occasion. We really try to be the guys with the smiley faces after a game, rather than looking too far forward.”

To put in perspective how young the current ­Dolphins team is, it is worth noting that David Miller, Devon ­Conway, Keshav Maharaj, Kyle Abbott and Mthokozisi Shezi are all 23 years old or younger.

To say that the Dolphins’ run in the Pro20 has been a team effort would not be putting too fine a point on it.

The team does not have a player in the top five leading run-scorers or wicket-takers, but a number of players have made vital contributions through the competition.

What has worked in the ­Dolphins’ favour is the innovative tactics they have utilised.

The team is at least one quality bowler short, but they combatted that weakness by making use of a host of part-timers to cobble together four or five overs.

Players like Miller, Conway, Loots Bosman and Ahmed Amla who, at best, are considered little more than net bowlers, have all turned their arms over while the Dolphins have used up to eight bowlers in a match.

The constant rotation of bowlers has caught opponents on the hop, but Ford is aware that the other franchises would have picked up on the Dolphins’ trickery.

“We had the element of surprise on our side, but the competition is so ­intense,” he explained.

“We were rank outsiders coming into the competition and we had to come up with something different.

We will have to put our thinking caps on now and try and come up with something different for the sharp end of the contest.”

Qualifying for the Pro20 semifinals is one thing, but the pressure will be on the men from Durban to make it through to the final to secure a place in the Champions’ League Twenty20.

Ford will still be proud of his charges, whether they make the final or not.

The Dolphins complete their Pro20 group matches with a clash against the Highveld Lions at Kingsmead in Durban­ ­today. – MWP Media

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