Dolphins’ loss is Inland’s gain

2008-07-29 00:00

After being very uncertain about his future with the Natal Dolphins, Doug Watson has finally accepted the position of player/coach for KZN Inland cricket in Pietermaritzburg.

Doug is a superb acquisition for Inland cricket and a huge loss for the Dolphins, who could scarcely afford to lose by far their most experienced player.

It appears that the Dolphins hierarchy struggled to make a decision about Doug Watson’s future at Kingsmead. There have been conflicting reports over the past few months about whether Doug had signed for next season. Finally, Watson has confirmed that his tenure with the Dolphins is over and he is looking forward to the challenge that Inland cricket will provide.

Watson brings to Inland a disciplined approach to cricket, and I have no doubt that he will command enormous respect from all the players. He was by far the fittest cricketer in the Dolphins set-up – where, it appears, fitness is no longer the priority it should be.

The fact that Doug has maintained his fitness under these circumstances and in uncertain times highlights his professionalism and discipline as a cricketer.

His work ethic may be a surprise to some of the Inland players whose performance last season was disappointing, to say the least. Watson’s appointment should give Inland cricket a shake-up, which will do them the world of good.

His presence at Inland cricket should also assist in attracting players who are leaving school at the end of the year and, one hopes, will be persuaded to stay in Pietermaritzburg to begin their cricketing careers.

Watson’s challenge will be to build Inland cricket into a breeding ground for first-class cricketers and to develop their potential so they will be able to play for other franchises.

It’s tough for schoolboy cricketers to make it in the franchises if they have not represented their provinces. Franchise selectors also choose their teams early on in the season, so it’s virtually impossible to break into the squads, especially if you are only playing at club level.

I feel that Inland cricket could play an important role here in bridging the gap between cricket played at club and franchise level in the midlands.

Inland cricketers will have the opportunity of playing cricket around the country under Watson’s leadership, and should they perform well, there is a good chance that they will be noticed by selectors from other franchises.

I sincerely hope that Inland cricket — for now — will become a valuable breeding ground for cricketers. The real test for Watson will be how he succeeds in working with cricketers who are not professionals. Inland cricketers have other jobs as the remuneration from Inland cricket is not enough for them to play cricket full time. This will make it especially challenging for Watson.

He has spent his days as a senior cricketer playing with other professionals who are able to devote all their time and energy to the game. Now he will seek 0to transform Inland’s cricketing amateurs into a professional outfit.

It is an excellent and timely opportunity for Watson to begin a new career in coaching after his loyal service as a professional for the Dolphins franchise.

Watson’s coaching credentials are excellent and his appointment signals a new and exciting chapter, both for KZN midlands cricket andhis own career.

Neil Johnson, a former Natal, WP, Zimbabwe and Hamsphire all-rounder, lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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