International expertise welcome

2012-02-25 00:00

IN most sports, especially cricket, rugby and soccer, players plying their trade outside their borders have long been a bone of contention.

Some countries, like Spain and Germany in football, have struck the right balance in terms of having the right amount of overseas players coupled with homegrown players as to not stifle the needs of their national teams, which are doing rather well on the international stage.

Then you have the likes of England and South Africa, who have got it all wrong with the influx of foreign players of various qualities, ranging from the special to journeymen who are looking for the quick buck.

This leads us to the Dolphins’ acquisition of a certain Christopher Henry Gayle, the brutal Jamaican left-hander. One could be inclined to call him a T20 gun for hire or mercenary, but in reality he is far from that.

If the West Indian Cricket Board’s coffers were as swollen as the Board of Control for Cricket in India, or the two warring parties smoked the peace pipe and resolved their differences, Gayle would be donning more of the maroon stripe than the variety of pyjamas that now have a special place in his travelling bag.

With such a young team, Gayle is exactly what the Dolphins need after a difficult season where they finished stone-last in the SuperSport Series and a distant fourth in the franchise One-Day Cup. Admittedly they have ditched a few experienced campaigners over the past two to three seasons, including Jon Kent and HD Ackerman, but from such depths, they can only go one way and that is up. Provided he can sort out his issues with the board, the question is asked, can the Dolphins get Gayle on board for next season’s SuperSport Series?

If they can, that would be a major coup and boon for the Dolphins, who have a young, but hugely talented batting line-up.

In Divan van Wyk, David Miller, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Cody Chetty, Khayelihle Zondo and Bradley Barnes there is some serious batting talent, but there are two important factors missing — mentorship and experience.

As good as Imraan Khan, Daryn Smit and Ahmed Amla can be, they alone cannot carry the load. When Khan and Amla were coming through, they had the likes of Doug Watson, Lance Klusener and Dale Benkenstein to lean on. On a good day, the youngsters could take apart any franchise attack, but they need to have their rough edges filed off.

If you need examples of West Indian inspiration, you need not look further than the influence the late Malcolm Marshall had on Shaun Pollock, Benkenstein and Klusener.

The trio were talented, but unrefined, and once they went through Marshall’s hands, they realised their potential. Down the N2 in East London, Vasbert Drake was not the most talented of players to come from the West Indies, but his presence in the Border team was immensely beneficial to Makhaya Ntini’s development. Ditto Desmond Haynes’ contribution to the development of Ackerman, Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis.

Englishman Owais Shah might not be reproducing the runs that once earned him Test and ODI caps, but his presence in the Cape Cobras team has positive effects for the team’s youngsters.

Whether Gayle delivers for the Dolphins is another issue altogether, but with such a green team, his experience and leadership is much needed. With such a packed T20 cricket calendar it is highly unlikely that Gayle could don the white flannels for the Dolphins. The Dolphins young core could prove to be the franchise’s batting mainstays in the future. With a limited number of foreign professionals allowed to campaign, allied with a weak rand, it’s unlikely that we could see the flood of overseas players seen in the English County Championship. Even though there are Test-class players in each of the franchises, the need for a foreign professional, who is well travelled, experienced in the nuances of international cricket, is imperative. Marshall and Haynes did not take hatfuls of wickets and score piles of runs, but their fine craftsmen hands had a massive role in sculpting some of South Africa’s talented players.

One hopes Chris Gayle can do the same if time allows him to.

• khanyiso.tswaku@sa.24.com

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