TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
BOWLERS in this year’s franchise T20 competition can rest assured: they will not have to face Kevin Pietersen. At least, not yet …
Contrary to murmurs that Pietersen would play in the event, his name was not on a list of six foreigners billed on Monday as the “super star” contingent for the tournament, which starts on Sunday.
But the only star among Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy and Craig Kieswetter is Gayle.
That truth is borne out by comparing the list with the T20 rankings, where Gayle is the highest pegged batsman at No. 15. The only bowler in the top 50 is Darren Sammy, who is 46th.
Zimbabwe’s Hamilton Masakadza is ranked higher than Gayle, while Lonwabo Tsotsobe is a better bowler than Sammy by 25 rungs on that ladder.
And it seems a genuinely big fish got away. The Lions were in discussions with Samuel Badree, the world’s top ranked T20 bowler, but he could not negotiate leave from the school where he teaches.
Kumar Sangakkara was also set to call the Wanderers home for the next six weeks before he was whisked away on Sri Lanka’s tour to India.
If reports of Gayle’s involvement ring deja vu bells, that’s because he was all set to play for the Dolphins in 2011-12 and 2013-14 only to pull out with injuries. This time, he looks likely to turn out for, that’s right, the Lions.
“We have had assurances from a physio and from his agent that he is in good health,” Lions chief executive Greg Fredericks said on Monday, adding that he hoped to have Gayle’s signature on a contract “in the next 24 hours”.
Pietersen, one of the most destructive hitters in the game, was in the country two weeks ago. But only to play in a charity sixes tournament with former SA players and to take to the bush with rhino warrior Mark Boucher.
One of those former players was Graeme Smith, now the T20 tournament director. That led to theories that Smith could convince Pietersen to return to the country of his birth, if only for a few weeks.
He might be here again in the near future, but to autograph copies of his controversial autobiography rather than a playing contract. It seems signing up with a franchise for the tournament’s duration is not part of Pietersen’s short-term plan.
“People said we should try and get KP, but what I’ve heard is that he isn’t available for more than about a week,” Fredericks said.
That is, until December 13 – six days before the start of Australia’s Big Bash League. The England Cricket Board have cleared Pietersen to play in that tournament, where he will turn out for the Melbourne Stars. According to reports out of Australia on Monday, he will warm up by playing a Victorian Premier League match the week before.
SA’s tournament runs until December 12, which would preclude Pietersen’s prolonged involvement. But it does not rule out a spot of parachute professionalism for the odd game or two.
Of course, the price would have to be right for a player who was paid US$1.5-million by the Delhi Daredevils this year. Or, as a veteran man of cricket said on Monday, “I’d be impressed if he didn’t ask for a lot.”
But, for Fredericks, the grass was not always greener abroad: “Last season’s competition was won by the only team that didn’t have an overseas player in their squad.”
This summer, that team, the Dolphins, will have Bravo on their books. Pollard will play for the Cobras, Russell for the Knights, Sammy for the Titans, and Kieswetter for the Warriors.