Talented young star leaves Dolphins

2008-04-09 00:00

ONE of the most talented young cricketers produced in this province in recent times has chosen to throw in his lot with the Highveld Lions, rather than the KZN Dolphins.

Jonathan Vandiar, who was due to open the batting for the Dolphins in the Pro20 match against the Titans at Kingsmead tonight, boarded a plane for Johannesburg instead, in order to tie up contract details with the Lions.

The Witness phoned Vandiar, a DHS matriculant last year, for comment, but he was unavailable at the time of going to press.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise to us,” said Dolphins CEO Cassim Docrat, who was not prepared to comment further.

The Witness has learnt that Vandiar’s move is not because the Lions offered him more money.

Dolphins captain Ahmed Amla admitted to The Witness late yesterday that Vandiar’s decision came as a shock to him.

“I found out on Tuesday and I was surprised, as Jon was the first youngster given an opportunity this season when we were looking for batsmen,” Amla said. “Unfortunately Immy [Imraan Khan] has gone down with flu and when chatting to Yash [coach Yashin Ebrahim] yesterday, we decided Jonathan would open against the Titans. In the evening, I heard he would not be available.”

Amla said Vandiar might feel there are good cricket reasons for his decision.

“He has worked with [temporary Lions coach] Ray Jennings for two years and maybe he feels Ray can take him all the way. Everyone is looking for that extra five or 10% that might make the difference to their chances of representing South Africa at Test or limited-overs level, and maybe Jonathan has heard Jennings is going to coach the Lions next season. If Jennings looks after him, Jon might play for South Africa soon.”

Jennings coached the SA U19 team that reached the junior World Cup final in Malaysia, and Vandiar was chosen as one of that tournament’s top five cricketers.

“The guys who Ray backs would go to Vietnam for him,” Amla said. “People say if Ray really backs a guy he can make him a top cricketer.

“I had never seen Jon play until he was selected for the Dolphins, but top coaches like Graham Ford were forthright that he was a real talent.”

Amla rejected the notion that the Dolphins were lukewarm towards Vandiar.

“A couple of days after he returned from the U19 World Cup he was playing for us in an MTN [45-over] match.”

In the light of Vandiar leaving, Amla said in his answer to a question that there was now a stronger case to be made for the most experienced Dolphins player, opening batsman Doug Watson, to remain in the side. There have been strong rumours that Watson’s Dolphins contract will not be renewed.

“I think Doug still has a lot to offer with the bat, but that is up to the decision makers. Ideally you want success and a feeder system at the same time, but that’s easier said than done.”

Jay Naidoo, the Dolphins manager of playing affairs and convenor of selectors, said he was not aware that Vandiar went to Johannesburg Wednesday.

“But I can say he is the only cricketer from the SA U19 World Cup squad to have been offered a full contract, which the Dolphins have done. Not even U19 captain Wayne Parnell has one. He has signed a rookie contract with the Warriors.”

Naidoo also rejected the contention that the Dolphins did not see sufficient value in Vandiar.

“He was the first schoolboy out of the three the Dolphins chose for the SuperSport Series this season.”

Naidoo added that a top coach had told him Vandiar would be playing for Graeme Smith’s team within 18 months.

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