Contractually bound

“He bowled one particular spell against us in the Supersport Series this year that could have been bowled by Wasim Akram, it was that good,” says Boeta Dippenaar.

“Left arm around the wicket, swinging it both ways in the mid 140s, it was awesome. He has phenomenal talent and huge potential, no doubt about that, but he is still only 19-years-old.”

Dippenaar was speaking about Wayne Parnell, the recent recipient of a national contract. And note that he said “BUT he is still only 19” rather than “AND he is still only 19.”

Cricket South Africa announced Parnell on the national contract list with some fanfare. The news was received with considerably less fanfare amongst the vast majority of the cricket community. And it has absolutely nothing to do with Parnell, either as a cricketer or a person.

He has worked harder than most through the teen years to reach this stage in his career, living with a ‘foster’ family in PE to pursue his dreams and then captaining and playing with distinction up until SA under-19 level. He deserves success and as much nurturing and encouragement as possible. Whether he deserves a national contract, however, has been the subject of much consternation and eyebrow raising.

A national contract is, after all, the ultimate goal for a provincial cricketer as it offers both the chance of glory and also an opportunity to lay the foundations for a secure financial future. But ever since national contracts were introduced they have been regarded as rewards for perseverance and consistent performances at provincial level followed by a minimum number of games for South Africa. That number always used to be six one-day internationals or three Test matches. Parnell has played two Pro20 matches and one ODI.

But there is another way of looking at whether he ‘deserves’ the contract. “He hasn’t even had time to lose form for the Warriors, never mind be dropped by them,” says Dippenaar. “How is he going to cope with the emotions of that when it happens with the eyes of the whole country on him?”

“In my view, what he actually deserved was to be allowed to play a couple of seasons away from the prying eyes of the nation in order to learn more about himself and his game. There are some things you can only learn through experience and I’m really not sure that he deserves the pressure of having to learn those things at national level,” says Dippenaar who has always spoken with touching honesty about the regrets he had about his own premature elevation to the international stage.

“Maybe Wayne will cope with it all better than I did, I certainly hope he does. Nobody would be happier than me if proves to be the exception and handles everything that life will throw at him, but we have a history in South Africa of throwing guys into the deep end too early and then either seeing them sink or, at least, not fulfill their potential. But all we learn from history, it seems, is that we don’t learn from history.”

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