Time for a quickie

2010-03-27 00:00

AS THE domestic season closes tomorrow, it is perhaps apt to reflect on the health of South African cricket — Proteas aside.

The wave of success that has blanketed the Eastern Cape region is no coincidence, for the Warriors franchise has been quietly gathering momentum for the past few seasons.

It is a formidable unit and one that will represent South Africa very well at the Champions League later this year.

Full of national players, both current and future, the Eastern Cape have finally tapped into a winning formula and look set to dominate the scene for the next few seasons.

What is particularly impressive is that they have prevailed even in the absence of the likes of Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Ashwell Prince. Kallis switched allegiance from Cape Town after a bust-up with Shukri Conrad. One can be fairly sure that even in the Protea legend’s wildest dreams, he would not have expected to be enjoying such spectacular success — or living next door to bosom buddy Boucher on a golf estate.

Things have worked out well for them, and the momentum created by Russel Domingo’s simple but effective structures are reaping rich rewards.

It is perhaps wise to steer clear of KwaZulu-Natal’s long list of problems.

To their credit, the Dolphins have admitted their failings and have pencilled in the winter as the focal point for a real change in approach and mindset.

Manager of playing affairs Jay Naidoo has been relieved of his duties and will now preside over the younger brigade that funnels through Kingsmead.

Graham Ford will assume greater control of proceedings, and one hopes he is given the time and trust to give it a real go. The KwaZulu-Natal fraternity has no option — they are up crap creek and need a revamp to start the long trek back to the glory days.

The former coach, groundsman and pretty much everything else, Phil Russell, was at Kingsmead this week to take a peek at the ongoing match against the Lions.

What he saw didn’t inspire much confidence, but Russell , like many others, hopes Ford can turn the corner with a side that has much promise but little direction.

Leaders are in short supply, and the captaincy seems to have dragged down Imraan Khan’s slight shoulders this season.

It is not a bed of roses, but someone needs to do it. It is interesting to see how freely Ahmed Amla has played since he was relieved of the duties.

It is almost a poisoned chalice.

Leadership issues aside, the Dolphins are in desperate need of some firepower.

Russell mused about Nixon McLean’s highly successful spell at Kingsmead. Aside from the searing pace that he bowled with, the West Indian juggernaut also brought confidence and pride to the field.

The current crop of Dolphins, leather fingers Quinton Friend aside, look like bunnies in the headlights. They will learn, of course, but a wily old pro to help them along would not go amiss.

The problem is that in these days of the Indian Premier League and the like, a domestic stint in the South African bush holds about as much fascination as a field trip to Afghanistan.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Ford has a real job on his hands, but perhaps there are few better equipped to tackle it.

Even in the midst of the wreckage of the Dolphins’ first-day demise in the current match, Ford still skipped lunch to work with young Keshav Maharaj’s spin in the middle.

That is the sort of dedication that is needed at the Dolphins — from everyone.

Ford has spoken of hunger and of restoring pride in the badge. It is telling that just a decade ago, Kingsmead was an ideal relocation option for players looking for a fresh challenge.

Now they avoid it like the plague.

The Warriors’ blueprint is one that the Dolphins ought to pay close attention to. They have nurtured the youth for a number of years, and nowadays they are reaping the rewards.

Sure, it helps when you can call on Wayne Parnell, Johan Botha and Rusty Theron for major finals, but the team getting them to those big games is young and hungry.

The Dolphins have signed Imran Tahir, who will be a valuable asset on the increasingly benign Kingsmead strip.

But what they really need is a quickie, someone in the tearaway mould of a McLean or Nantie Hayward.

The Dolphins don’t scare teams with their current attack, and that will seriously undermine the progress of this fragile unit.

One can only hope that the cricket gods throw Ford and company a much-needed bone.

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