Morne van Wyk can stand tall as an astute leader who took Dolphins cricket to new heights

2014-06-27 00:00

AT the Cricket South Africa awards banquet earlier this month, it was encouraging to see cricket in KwaZulu-Natal, Dolphins cricket, recognised.

Award winners were David Miller, Kyle Abbott, Lance Klusener and groundsman Wilson Ngobese, a sure indication that the franchise on the East Coast had made a statement in the 2013/14 season.

Closer to home, the union had their annual awards ceremony last week and there can surely be no more popular a recipient of the Dolphins Player of the Season award than current skipper Morne van Wyk.

Now 35, Van Wyk was one of those prodigious talents who made his first class debut for Free State as a schoolboy at Grey College in the 1996/97 season and has been plying his trade season after season since.

He is one of those players who seems to be a timeless entity, a cricketer who has been around forever, the first name on the teamsheet. He arrived in Durban to revive the Dolphins at the beginning of last season and establish the team as a respected force in SA domestic cricket once more.

He could receive his award basking in the glory of a job well done. At long last, he enabled the trophy cabinet to be opened at Kingsmead as he led the troops to the domestic Ram Slam T20 title, renewing interest in the game and reviving the spirit of Dolphins cricket which had laid dormant for longer than most optimistic supporters of the team would care to remember.

A Free State lad to the core, Van Wyk’s addition to the Dolphins camp for the 2013/14 season was seen by many as another attempt by the KZN Cricket Union to display its ongoing concern for the state of the game at provincial level by bringing in another outsider to add firepower to a foundering ship.

At least something was being done and that box could be ticked.

It proved to be an astute signing, one of the more productive arrivals, as Van Wyk settled in Durban with a mission, one which he soon imparted on the team, resulting in every player buying into it.

This was no holiday or career swansong for him. It was the opposite. Here was a chance to impart knowledge, stress the importance of the franchise, the team, the badge and what the players were representing. His experience and leadership would prove vital as he took over the captaincy and led by example.

That was another move that raised the shackles. Hometown boy and senior member of the side Daryn Smit had taken charge the previous season and while it had been another rough time, there were patches of growth and hope which, if nurtured, could blossom into something.

It was difficult for Van Wyk to take over in such circumstances but he stepped up to the plate and in his unique, diplomatic, quiet way, ensured there were no ruptures and everything fell into place without any hiccups.

As the season progressed, it was clear to see he had covered all his bases and had become a more than respected leader among all the players and the results began to reflect this.

It became evident too that Van Wyk is a man of strong principles and grounding. He knows he is blessed with a talent to lead and play the game and he respects that. He imparts that to his team and he is the first to say that there is more to life than playing cricket and having success on the field. To him, these points are a bonus in life, something he is fortunate to enjoy.

He is a deep thinker. A chat on a game or a result becomes an in-depth discussion as he openly highlights key areas and reasons for good and bad performances.

Trust is important to him, vitally important and, while he will have no time for sensationalism or negativity, he will respect what needs to be done and be honest, knowing that what is said will be portrayed in a mature and truthful manner.

With such attributes, it becomes clear why the Dolphins rose from the ashes last season and began enjoying the fruits of victory once more. Combine these traits of Van Wyk’s with those of coach Klusener and the recipe starts to work.

In training and on the field, Van Wyk never shunned his leadership and responsibilities. He ran at the front of the pack in training and as a key batsman and wicketkeeper, could read the game and recognise player strengths and weaknesses.

Having met with Smit to discuss the captaincy and keeping issues, he recognised the latter as a key senior member of the side, enabling Smit to work on his leg-spin bowling, which became a much-used option in all formats of the game as the season went on.

With the bat, Van Wyk averaged above 50 in the four-day competition, amassing 534 runs with two centuries. In the one- day and 20-over matches he opened the innings, playing with flair and purpose, often setting the platform from which to surge to victory.

When he arrived in Durban, Van Wyk said he would like to be remembered five years from now as a player and leader who left a mark on Dolphins cricket, someone who appreciated the legacy and history within the walls of Kingsmead, someone who turned the franchise into one of the country’s best.

That last point still needs some feeding, but the coming season will tell.

Meanwhile, stand tall Morne van Wyk and take a bow as we applaud you. You have already left your mark on Kingsmead and Dolphins cricket after just one season.

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