Ryan Rickelton was a key member of the Jozi Stars’ squad during the 2018 MSL campaign and is one of six players retained for their title defence, writes Jonhenry Wilson in SA Cricket magazine.
Do you feel validated after being retained by the Stars, when some players were overlooked and others moved to new franchises?
My retention by the Stars came as a bit of a shock to me. I was never going to say no to the Stars – and I’m obviously looking forward to working with the coaching group again. Losing Dane Vilas to the Durban Heat is tough, as he is a world-class player. He is a very good leader, which we all saw during the 2018 edition of the MSL. His replacement at the Stars is effectively Temba Bavuma, who is another world-class player I’m looking forward to playing with. Where one door closes another opens – and I’m keen to see what I can bring to a team that is without Dane but has Temba.
What’s your view of Donovan Miller succeeding Enoch Nkwe as head coach?
I played under Enoch at the Strikers [now Central Gauteng Lions] and already knew then that he was a driven coach capable of bigger things. He knows a lot about the game and imparts this to the players. He’s professional and strives to get the best out of us. He really does go the extra mile in all aspects of the game. Donovan is similar to Enoch and is quite open about how he wants you to manage yourself and play your own game. He will be a different kind of coach to Enoch, especially with all the experience he gained in the Caribbean Premier League, but he is an appropriate replacement.
Chris Gayle has been retained as the Stars’ international marquee player and you will likely open the batting with him again. What is that like?
Chris is pretty much like he is portrayed – relaxed and chilled about everything. Not too much seems to worry him. He is calm out in the middle, where he just talks about the target at hand and how we should go about it. He does play his own game but he is engaged in yours too. He tells you to keep backing yourself and has a look at a few options with you. He is a calming influence. He asks the good questions you should be asking yourself. He might encourage you to go over the top to one bowler or through the leg-side with another – either way, he gives you advice now and then.
Are you still trying to establish your natural game and what strengths do you offer the Jozi Stars?
I’m closer to my natural game, that’s for sure. I’m inquisitive and have spent time with past players asking questions for some valuable insight. Some players find themselves sooner than others. I’m attacking and aggressive when I need to be and that can set me apart from others. In all the environments I play cricket – at the Stars, Gauteng or Lions, wherever – I want to be in a learning environment. I add value in the field and as a wicketkeeper but I want to bring the biggest value with the bat. I put myself out there and I want to make things happen.
Are you mindful that the brand of cricket you play can reap rewards at the player drafts that take place before domestic T20 tournaments around the world?
I’m still figuring out my game but it changes with circumstance, conditions, format and other elements. I want to be consistent across all formats, not just T20, and not be an absolutely chaotic player in one format and then flip it to the other end of the scale and be quite tentative in the longer format. I think it’s about trying to find the balance across all three and that’s the player I want to be. Sport has changed over the years; it is quite a social platform now. It’s about producing results but it’s also about entertainment, which is a big factor for me. That’s what people pay to watch. If you can build a brand, a positive brand that people will want to be associated with, it will bring results for you. At the end of the day, the performance dictates your brand in a way and it can tell who you are as a cricketer. I would say brand value is important in cricket and it’s not something to neglect.
Are you cognisant of the fact that the career trajectory of a modern-day cricketer is different to that of past players?
Some top players have quite a long pathway and others are coming along quicker. There are cricketing opportunities around the world which can speed up the process. The Global T20 Canada is a good example of this and, yes, the Mzansi Super League and others. There is the ‘old-fashioned’ way of getting big runs and taking a lot of wickets in South African domestic cricket – and then moving up. The new-school way is probably where I find myself, involved in the MSL but also in South African domestic cricket. Both pathways have value.
How does a South African cricketer navigate the appeal of Kolpak contracts and other opportunities overseas ?
It’s always going to be an option for those in a position to sign Kolpak deals. If they are well placed and wanted by a county, it’s something to consider. These arrangements aren’t always seen in a positive light but guys need to do what is best for their careers and families. No one can begrudge them that. It has put South African cricket in an intriguing position. The MSL is obviously televised and more players get looked at internationally. I’m not fazed. I want to play good cricket wherever I am – and what will be will be.