Buying old stock will not fix Dolphins

2008-03-18 00:00

After a season that ended with the Dolphins losing out on a semi-final berth in the one-day competition, it will be back to the drawing board for the brains trust down at Kingsmead.

As with any team at the end of a season, there will be players retiring or leaving the province, and new signings to be considered.

It is to be hoped that throughout the season, talent scouts have been hard at work identifying potential players who will now be able to make their way into the Dolphins squad.

In my opinion, the Dolphins coaches and selectors have down the years had it relatively easy, as there has always been an abundance of talented youngsters coming from school cricket.

Some of these players have been fortunate to gain promotion straight into the Dolphins squad, while others have had to do their time playing club cricket and have often struggled to catch the eye of the selectors.

The amateur side should be the step up to the Dolphins squad, but to label this level of competition "first-class" is misleading, as the standard of cricket is so poor.

The current Dolphins coach, Yashin Ebrahim, was coach of the amateur side for about five years, so he should have an accurate idea about who in that side is pushing for selection. It is rather puzzling, then, that the Dolphins have bought Alfonso Thomas, Blake Snijman, HD Ackerman and another player yet to be finalised, in addition to Pierre de Bruyn and Quinton Friend. These players are not international stars and some are finding it tough to hold down their places in other franchises.

Taking into account the requirement of four quota players, and these six imports, means that there are only two more places for locally produced white players.

To me this shows a complete lack of faith by the selectors and coaches in their own structures and systems, which for generations have produced a fine crop of players. Had young players been nurtured and developed correctly over the last five years, there would be no need to go shopping for cricketers in other provinces.

Jay Naidoo, the Dolphins convenor of selectors, is entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring players and ensuring that the best team available is representing the province. His ability to do that job has to be questioned when, week in and week out, we see under-performing Dolphin players out in the middle.

Watching these players, one gets the distinct impression that they have an "I don’t really care" attitude, while it is also obvious that they lack the intensity and fitness required at this level.

Some of these cricketers seem secure in the knowledge that they will not be dropped for a variety of reasons, one of them being the parlous state of the amateur side. And because of the limited success in bringing these players through the ranks, the under-performing, below-par current Dolphin team members know that they can sit back and rest on their laurels, with their positions in the team seldom challenged.

It is obvious that the stronger a franchise’s amateur team is, the stronger the senior side will be. If we apply that philosophy to the Dolphins set-up, then it is clear that the Dolphins are in real trouble. Coaches and administrators, with limited knowledge of the game, are now having to look elsewhere for players when there are good enough players right here under their noses.

This short-term fix of signing average players from outside the province cannot be the answer. It is vital that the right people and correct structures are put into place if the Dolphins are to ever return to their winning ways of the past.

oNeil Johnson, a former Natal, WP and Zimbabwe cricketer, lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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