Rilee Rossouw: One to Watch

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OUR MAN AT THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TWENTY 20 TIM MATHIAS REPORTS . . .

tim-mathiasWorld Cricket Watch will be bringing you reports from the heart of the action as our roving reporter Tim Mathias is in India taking in the sights and getting swept along by this cricket mad nation. He continues to pursue his dream of publishing his ongoing research on the evolution of Indian cricket, from ‘Cultural Supremacy to Cricketing Swadeshi’ and the Champions League is the next logical step.

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Young South African backed by captain, coach and cash.

rilee rossouwFollowing Sussex’s bitterly disappointing exit at the Champions League, Mike Yardy, the Sharks captain, addressed the pack of journalists at the post match press conference with a somewhat dazed appearance.  His team had missed out on progressing to the next stage of the tournament, and Yardy’s mood reflected the fact his team had battled to come back into the game from the brink of defeat, only for the hard work to be undone by a ‘super over’.

Tight bowling by Sussex’s slower bowlers squeezed South Africa’s Diamond Eagles in the later stages of their innings. The Eagles were, at one stage 72 without loss, chasing a below par 119.  However, the steady loss of wickets and fear of ‘choking’ in true South African style left the Eagles requiring a boundary from the last ball of the innings. And Ryan McLaren bludgeoned a loose ball through long-on for four, to force a tie.

A tie or even a loss seemed a completely remote possibility as the Eagles motored along early in their innings at 7 an over, with a remarkable innings of 65 by opener, Rilee Rossouw, an unknown quantity to those outside South Africa. Mike Yardy, in his post match interview failed to remember his name, referring to Rossouw as, ‘ that young South African opener’. And indeed, no other journalist gave much attention to the 20 year old, except one South African hack, playfully conversing in Afrikaans to the new talent.  Yet a hugely positive statement of endorsement from the Eagles captain, Boeta Dippenaar, tweaked the ears of those within listening range.

Speaking about his gifted, young opener, Dippenaar assured the audience, ‘ I am prepared to bet my mortgage on it that he will have a long, successful career for South Africa.  And as the crowd edged closer to the new centre of attention, Rilee Rossouw, with a huge smile on his face, admitted relief, joking ‘now I know what he thinks of me!’ To many players, press conferences can be un-nerving experiences, stuttering and struggling for words before the lights, cameras and packs of quote hungry journos. Rossouw, despite his tender age handled the attention with absolute charm and without a hint of nervousness. Rossouw added, in reference to his captain’s recommendation, ‘Boeta is a class player’, before pausing and continuing, with complete sincerity ‘I respect every word that he says’.

Such an expression of approval from Dippenaar, who has played 38 Tests and 107 ODIs at the highest level, comes following a 2008/09 season in which Rossouw has flourished.  Finishing as his state’s top run scorer, he was one of the youngest South Africans to reach 1000 first-class runs.   His 15 matches at an average of 40.40 have yielded 4 centuries and 5 fifties. However his Twenty20 record, to date has failed to match his accomplishments in the longer form of the game, scoring just 166 runs from 11 innings, a record which no doubt will improve.

The competition presented an opportunity for players, as much as businesses to tap into the Indian rupee.  Played in front of an Indian audience and with franchise owners watching, the Champions League was a platform upon which previously unknown players could showcase their skills in hope of an approach ahead of the third Indian Premier League (IPL).

When asked upon his views on the IPL, Rilee Rossouw’s face betrayed a huge smile on his cherubic face.  With respect for Dipenaar obvious, as he turned to his too smiling captain, in search of authorisation to reveal his news. Rossouw admitted, complete with a full ear–to-ear beam; that he had signed for the Bangalore Royal Challengers prior to the tournament. Released with enthusiasm and delight, it seemed as if the pride at being scouted and signed for an Indian franchise extended beyond the obvious financial benefits. His signing was a seal of approval, a confirmation that Rilee Rossouw had the world at his feet.

Rossouw’s signing reveals,

-the influence of the coach in signings and scouting. Coach Ray Jennings who has previously worked with the South African Under-19s, ‘A’ and Senior team, no doubt would have had a considerable say in the signing of his countryman.  It marks a departure away from the perception that the franchise owner heavily influences signings. In this case, Vijay Mallya, the drinks and aviation billionaire, known for the ‘Kingfisher’ brand.  Although Jennings must shoulder the responsibility of his signing.

-that the Royal Challengers are extending their power to discover and sign players beyond the current crop of international stars.  The Bangalore franchise recently forked out $1.55m for Kevin Pietersen, already an international star, celebrity and icon.  The signing of Rossouw presents an opportunity to capture a largely unknown player in anticpation of future stardom, without out paying exorbitant post-stardom costs.

Bangalore’s latest signing suggests that the franchise is looking forward, to nurturing the opener. After all, the Royal Challegers squad boasts an array of opening talent, in Kallis, Pandey, Uthappa, Jessie Ryder and Wasim Jaffer.  This speaks volumes of Rilee Rossouw and his potential, for it is he who will be filling the shoes of these illustrious names in seasons to come.

The potential of Rilee Rossouw boasts backing from a selection of respected South African cricketing figures, and most tellingly, the backing of Vijay Mallya in the form of hard cash.  His rise to stardom features his latest knock at the Champions League.  Offering a chance to display cricketing talent, the tournament has provided proof of an exciting and competant future star, both infront of the stumps and before the media. Prepare to see much more of ‘that young South African opener’.


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