Two young guns await their chance
Since 2008, several respected observers have identified Stiaan van Zyl and Rilee Rossouw as two of the best and most talented young batsmen in South Africa.
And not without reason, as Rossouw emerged as the leading runs scorer for the Chevrolet Knights in the 2008/2009 season, with 765 runs. He was a run-scoring machine in the 2009/2010 season, amassing 1 261 at an average of 57.61. That included 319 off 291 balls against the Nashua Titans.
The stylish left-handed Van Zyl was the leading run-scorer for the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras in 2009/2010, finishing with 696 runs at an average of 58.
Rossouw has unfortunately operated under the radar the past two seasons. Perhaps it was partly due to a lower-back injury that curbed his progress significantly.
He has recently emerged from virtual obscurity with scores of 97 and 80 in Sunfoil Series matches against one of the most potent domestic attacks, the bizhub Highveld Lions.
He also scored his 13th first-class century against another top-class attack, the Chevrolet Warriors.
Sarel Cilliers, the Knights coach, admits that Rossouw could have converted a few more half-centuries into tons. He also might have kicked on to a big century after completing a hundred against the Warriors.
“The Rilee I have witnessed the past two months, is a man hungry for runs, he craves hard work. He is motivated,” said Cilliers.
“South Africa doesn’t have many players who possess Rilee’s talent. But talent is not everything. You need discipline, hard work and awareness of the right way to compile a big innings.
“There’s little doubt he can represent South Africa if he refines the processes of compiling big centuries and converts that on to the field of play,” added Cilliers.
“Remember, he is only 23,” warned Cilliers. “He is a work in progress, and he has averaged more than 48 this season. If he converts those 80’s into 130’s and the centuries into 150’s, he’ll propel the Knights to victories,” he added.
With an average of 48.25, he is second on the Knights’ list of averages only to the injured captain, Morné van Wyk.
Paul Adams, the Cobras’ coach, is also upbeat about Van Zyl. “He is one of the most talented batsmen in the country. He is such a joy to watch, an attractive batsman with the right composure in front of the crease.
“The one thing he needs to do is to score more centuries to remind the selectors of his ability.”
After a relatively quiet start this season, Van Zyl underlined his potential with a superb century against the Titans last weekend.
Adams said it has not been easy for top-order batsmen to excel on sporty wickets. Van Zyl has scored a century and three half-centuries and averaged 52.50 for the Cobras in compiling 525 runs in seven matches.
Van Zyl says he is very happy with his own progress. “I have averaged more than 50 in the past three seasons. I have also represented the South African A team regularly. I do have to wait my turn if I want to represent South Africa.
“The Proteas have several big players who have excelled. But my focus is on scoring the centuries and converting the half-centuries into tons,” he added.
Van Wyk, former South African One-Day International wicketkeeper and regular skipper of the Knights, cautioned against selectors just looking at scorecards.
He said they should be at games on sporty wickets where scores like 80’s could be worth 150 or more.
“It’s easy for players to impress the selectors when they are performing on wickets like Senwes Park in Potchefstroom, at the Bidvest Wanderers or at SuperSport Park. It’s not always that easy on some of the other grounds.
“But it is vital for players like Rilee and others (like Stiaan van Zyl) to play the situation. Rilee can never be as defensive as Dean Elgar. He should retain his attacking flair, but curb his ultra-attacking tendencies according to the situation,” he added.
“Both Stiaan and Rilee have the ability and talent to represent South Africa. It’s about grabbing the opportunities,” he added.