Aye for Aya
The 2012-13 cricket season in South Africa has given the South African cricket supporter much to debate, from on-field scuffles to who should be the wicketkeeper for the Proteas.
Much has been spoken and written about the bizhub Highveld Lions duo of Quinton de Kock and Aaron Phangiso, but there is also a young 23-year-old from the Eastern Cape who has started to turn heads with some excellent performances this season.
The young allrounder, who hails from King William's Town, is none other than Ayabulela Gqamane. 'Aya', as he is known by his teammates, made his first-class debut just three seasons back for Border against North West in Potchefstroom.
Gqamane has only played five Sunfoil Series games this season, but has turned out some fantastic performances for his franchise, the Chevrolet Warriors, and helped them into a position where they have an outside chance of claiming the title.
Piet Botha, a veteran of 118 first-class games himself and coach of the Chevrolet Warriors, said in an interview on Tuesday: "We are delighted with what he has done, but he will need to carry those performances over the next two or three seasons, so there is still a lot of hard work to be done."
For someone that comes out to bat in the No 9 or 10 position, Gqamane has scored 158 runs at a healthy average of 26.33, and has scored more runs than Yaseen Vallie from the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras, and his compatriot, Jon-Jon Smuts.
Gqamane has also taken 26 wickets in this campaign, while having the best strike-rate and average for bowlers who have taken ten wickets or more.
But Botha remains level-headed when it comes to his new 'star'. "I'm always a bit cautious of jumping on the bandwagon too quickly because cricket is one of those games that when a new guy comes on the scene and does really well, he gets analysed with special attention."
Gqamane bears an on-field resemblance to one of South Africa's most energetic fast bowlers, Makhaya Ntini. "Sometimes you find cricketers who have that energy and enthusiasm that you want and that brings the best out of you, and Aya certainly has that energy and enthusiasm," stated Botha.
"The Warriors have been searching for someone like that, who inspires the whole team," Botha added.
One of the most important things in any young professional’s life, is mentorship, and Gqamane certainly seems to be receiving that at the Eastern Cape franchise.
"Ashwell Prince and Colin Ingram are really working hard in mentoring him, along with all the other senior players," said Botha.
"The pitches in South Africa this year have suited the bowling attacks, so a lot of bowlers have done well," commented Botha on the fact that many Sunfoil games have ended inside three days this season.
The Warriors take on the bizhub Highveld Lions in the final round of the Sunfoil Series at Axxess St. George’s, starting on Thursday.
The men from the Eastern Cape are just 5.6 points behind the bizhub Highveld Lions and 15.26 points behind the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras.