His defining moment

2015-01-21 00:00

NO international batsman wants a 50% success rate coupled with a 50% failure statistic.

That’s what Protea ODI batsman Rilee Rossouw faced as he took guard to open the innings against the West Indies in the second ODI at the Wanderers last Sunday.

In 10 ODI innings, since making his debut against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in August last year, he had registered five ducks, including one on that debut and in the first ODI of the current series, in Durban.

He was selected in the World Cup squad to travel to New Zealand and Australia for next month’s four-year showcase and at 25, was clearly seen by selectors as one of our next major batting exponents.

One can imagine what was going through his mind when he faced his first ball on Sunday. Talk always centres around the selectors giving a batsman three chances at ODI level before dropping the guillotine and in this case, Rossouw’s saving grace was being in that World Cup setup. Surely the selectors would not have rocked the boat and changed the crew at this late stage if he had failed again.

The records will show 128 against his name when he walked back to the change room and it’s fair to say, this could be the defining moment in Rossouw’s international cricket career.

He has broken through, he has tapped into an ability and talent that has seen him score a first class triple century and seven List A (limited over) hundreds. He knows what to do with bat in hand and cricket followers throughout South Africa are wanting to believe that the monkey is off his back and he can begin to bat with more confidence and self belief.

“Playing for your country is the summit of a cricketer’s career,” he said. “I have that opportunity and despite my record, I was working hard, wanting to be successful for the Proteas, for South Africa.

“This century was a relief. It’s broken the shackles. I am happy and satisfied.”

Making the century at the top of the order is another tick in the box for Rossouw, who cited opening as a relatively new challenge for him.

“At domestic level, for the Knights, I know my position is number three. It’s cast in stone,” he said. “Opening for the Proteas with someone as experienced as Hashim Amla at the other end ... It doesn’t get more daunting, but I have to adjust and give it my best.”

Just getting off the mark on Sunday was the first hurdle for Rossouw to conquer. Then it was a matter of taking it ball by ball. “It was tough in the beginning as I think I only faced maybe 10 balls in the first six overs,” he said. “I like to dominate but I needed to be patient and having Hashim as a pillar of support is what got me through to my dream and landmark.”

One can now picture Rossouw as something like Samson, breaking free and destroying all around him with bat in hand. It’s still early days and one innings never makes a cricketer, but at his age and with his confidence and belief restored, the cricket world is his oyster.

“I needed confidence and that is what this innings has done for me. I needed to prove I could play at the highest level and justify my position in the team,” said Rossouw.

Now, it’s a case of getting out there and making it happen.

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