• Caribbean crusaders

    Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy are not the first men from the Caribbean to grace South African domestic cricket. Here we look at a dozen others to have played in the country.

    1. Tall, intimidating, quick and cheeky, fast bowler Franklyn Stephenson was lost to West Indian Cricket after participating in the rebel tours of the 1980s. Among Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire and Sussex in England and Tasmania in Australia, the Orange Free State in South Africa were pleased to accommodate his talents irrespective of a contentious playing background. Stephenson sported a masterful slower ball – and became somewhat of a professional golfer after retiring from cricket in 1997.

    2. Seamer Eldine Baptiste played 10 Tests across all of seven years before finding considerably more game time with Eastern Province through the 1990s – and eventually ended a lengthy jaunt in South African domestic cricket with KwaZulu-Natal in the early 2000s. He later accepted a coaching post with Kenya – and now serves on the West Indies’ selection panel.

    3. One of the legendary Brian Lara‘s less illustrious contracts was with Northern Transvaal in the early 1990s. The stalwart left-hander failed to set the Benson and Hedges Series alight – and ironically perished lbw to fellow West Indian and Border recruit Phil Simmons in a particularly cosmopolitan fixture that also featured the Netherlands’ Chris van Noordwyk and Australian Rod McCurdy.

    4. Opening batsman Carlisle Best‘s heyday had largely come and gone by the 1993-94 seaon, when opportunity knocked at Western Province. Best proceeded to keep a host of homegrown talent out of the first-choice XI. January 1994’s fixture against Orange Free State at Newlands, in which he failed in both innings, transpired as the last of a waning first-class career.

    5. Western Province drew from the experience with Best – and employed the stalwart Desmond Haynes as a successor. The substantially more experienced left-hander brought more than just plenty of top-order runs to the proverbial party, dutifully mentoring plenty of upstarts. Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis were among the benefactors of Haynes’ tenure.

    6. An unorthodox batsman who played ODI cricket for the West Indies and United States of America, Northern Transvaal recruit Clayton Lambert‘s technique perplexed many provincial bowlers between 1993 and 1996. A very open stance, rooted well outside the leg stump, promptly shuffled across the stumps upon delivery. The peculiar approach, mirrored in part by the talented Shivnarine Chanderpaul today, brought mixed results.

    7. Long before his success as England’s bowling coach or West Indies head coach, fast bowler and aspiring all-rounder Ottis Gibson brought a Caribbean flair to a Border unit otherwise destined for the ordinariness of Kenyan Steve Tikolo – and eventual obscurity in a domestic circuit primed for franchise cricket. The right-arm speedster thrilled East London’s Buffalo Park faithful on many occasions – and also enjoyed relatively successful stints with Griqualand West and Gauteng.

    8. The lanky Vasbert Drakes, like Gibson, was the forgotten man of West Indian cricket before the turn of the century. Diligently plying his trade with Border, Drakes’ recall to international cricket eventually came in the early 2000s. Border had benefited from his division of labour with the new ball – and aspirations as a pinch-hitter during a period the batting fad was very popular. He later took to coaching – and secured a position with the United Arab Emirates.

    9. Uncapped by the West Indian Cricket Board and short on favour with the Barbados selectors, occasional wicketkeeper Sam Skeete found a temporary home in South Africa – and was one of the players who made Eastern Transvaal’s transition to Easterns cricket easier during a 1993-94 era lined with post-sanction political jeopardy. He was never able to fulfill the promise displayed for West Indies under-19 or West Indies Young Cricketers, though, even for a low-profile adapted union.

    10. The late, great Malcolm Marshall spent several seasons with Natal in the 1990s – and was arguably more of a positive influence on the burgeoning Shaun Pollock than the young redhead’s father, Peter. Marshall had lost a lot of his pace in the twilight of a prolific career, but still possessed the ability to swing and seam the ball at will. The Durban-based franchise benefited entirely from the player-cum-coach’s presence, which eventually paved the way for the recruitment of other West Indians in Fidel Edwards and Chris Gayle.

    11. Fast bowler Nixon McLean‘s arrival to the Dolphins was necessitated by Gibson’s decision to snub an offer late in the piece in September 2001. Baptiste was the franchise coach at the time – and helped pulled the strings that lured McLean. The right-arm fast bowler enjoyed a standout first-class season, clinching over 40 wickets, which was enough to ensure a return a year later despite obligations to St Lucia.

    12. Of the Emmerson Trotman, Collis King and Hartley Alleyne era of yesteryear, batsman Alvin Kallicharan also lined the 1970s and 80s with his enviable, cavalier services. The Orange Free State were undoubtedly happy to have firepower added to an otherwise uninspiring middle order, while Transvaal’s so-called ‘Mean Machine’ certainly appreciated the international cog.

    By Jonhenry Wilson

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