The seventh best spinner in the world is a South African. If he’d been picked to tour India last month things just might have been different.
Claude Henderson is a class act and I have more than a suspicion that he is living proof of the old adage that you can take a South African out of his country but you can never take the country out of a South African.
Claude has done exceptionally well since he opted to play full-time for Leicestershire in the English county championship. His move, of course, came at the expense of national duty and was a hard, painful decision. He did not take it lightly.
But it was the right decision. Omar Henry had made it clear to him upon his rise to selection convenor that he did not rate Henderson and his chances of an international career were virtually non-existant.
So the boy from Worcester created a little bit of history by becoming the first African cricketer to be granted a job as an ‘Englishman’ following the legal precedent set by the Slovakian handball player Maros Kolpak who argued that if free trade existed between Europe, Africa and the Caribbean then so should free sport.
Henderson has taken hundreds of wickets in England but, in his quiet moments of reflection, there was always the frustrated belief that he could have improved substantially on his Test return of 22 wickets in the seven games he played before ‘retiring’.
Part of the frustration, of course, was that after taking 11 wickets in his first two Tests against Zimbabwe, Shaun Pollock asked him to bowl an impossible line with a daft field to Matthew Hayden for three Tests, and he was savaged.
Anyway, what a shame and a waste. Henderson was lost and could never have travelled to India anyway. Wrong.
Henderson had a cup of tea and a chat with none other than national captain Graeme Smith before the tour of India and, although Smith has remained silent about the contents of their conversation, one thing is clear. Henderson was not only keen to return to international cricket, he was prepared to make several sacrifices to do so – including taking a pay cut.
He thought it only fair that he should be offered a national contract as security for giving up his county contract – and indeed, that would have been fair. And very reasonable.
But nothing happened. Omar either couldn’t find Henderson in Cape Town or he didn’t want to. So we have no quality spinner, a genuine wicket-taker.
If Haroon Lorgat fancies a chat with Claude he could just ask the national captain for his number.
World’s 10 best spinners (according to a random poll conducted without any scientific basis whatsoever):
1. Muttiah Muralitheran
2. Shane Warne
3. Harbhajan Singh
4. Anil Kumble
5. Danish Kaneria
6. Ashley Giles
7. Claude Henderson
8. Murali Kartik
9. Ray Price
10. Brad Hogg
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