TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
WILL the real Rilee Rossouw please pad up? Not that he looks likely to get the chance to do so given the game of musical chairs that is in full swing in SA’s dugout.
In his 19 innings in one-day internationals, Rossouw has batted everywhere from No. 1 to 7 – with the exception of No. 5. In eight trips to the T20 crease, he has featured at the top of the order as well as at Nos. 3, 4 and 6.
Despite all that jazz, he has scored two centuries and three 50s in ODIs, and two T20 50s. He didn’t add to those numbers in SA’s T20 series in Bangladesh, but he played important innings.
On Sunday, Faf du Plessis stood alone on a deck that smouldered at 90/4 when Rossouw walked out to bat in the 13th over. By the end of the innings, Rossouw was 31 not out and the total was 148/4.
On Tuesday, Rossouw’s unbeaten 19 sped SA from 136/4 in the 18th over to 169/4 after 20. He drilled his runs off six balls.
At his best, Rossouw bats with a left-hander’s profane freedom and a right-hander’s sacred discipline. He thumps boundaries as adeptly as he threads them through gaps, he has as firm a grip on the emphatic as he does on the subtle, and he gets the job done without drama.
Not bad for a basic bloke from Bloem who waddled to four ducks in his first six innings for SA.
“In the last 12 months, he’s grown as a player and in his make-up as a person,” Rossouw’s coach at the Knights, Sarel Cilliers, said on Wednesday. “Earlier in his career he would get out at the wrong time, but now he can take responsibility and he can strike the ball cleanly from the start of his innings.”
Happily, Rossouw should earn an opportunity to do just that in the one-day series in Bangladesh that starts on Friday. Unhappily, he did not crack the nod for the squad that will then play two tests there.
“He’s only just come into the national squad so he’s got to take what he can get,” Cilliers said. “But he’s a man for all the formats. If things pan out I’m sure he will find his way into the test squad – you will not go wrong if you pick him.”
Thing is, Rossouw is three months shy of his 26th birthday. If he is going to make the most of all that talent – from 2008-09 and except for last season, when he played just one first-class match, he has not ended a summer without scoring a century in the format – he had better do so sooner rather than later. What’s the best way to make that happen?
“Because he’s very talented he doesn’t get fussed about too many details,” Cilliers said. “The moment he is comfortable, he plays it as he sees it.
“So let Rilee play. If you hold him back and give him too much information he’s a different player. But if he understands what he needs to do and what the partnership requires of him …”
Cilliers’ left his sentence hanging, much like spectators stop talking and stare when Rossouw rips a meaty stroke.
Will his career end the same way, unfinished and unfulfilled? Perhaps. And that would be unfair.