October 4, 2000

Hayward named among Cricketers of the Year

If not quite a surprise choice, Nantie Hayward is the least predictable of the five South African Cricketers of the Year, announced at a banquet to launch the 2000 edition of the Mutual and Federal South African Cricket Annual in Johannesburg on Wednesday night.

Those named along with Hayward are his South African team-mates Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher (who are both honoured for the second time), Ken Rutherford, the former New Zealand and Gauteng captain, and Vasbert Drakes, the Bajan fast bowler who has made South Africa his second home.

Hayward, who had a forgettable tour of England with South Africa in 1998, began to confirm his promise last summer when he took 25 wickets in the first three SuperSport Series matches of the season and forced his way into the team for the second Test against England.

He took five wickets in an impressive debut as the control lacking in the early years of his career was harnessed to genuine pace. He may well be third in line behind Shane Lee and Shoaib Akhtar for the title of the world's fastest bowler, but he is clearly the heir apparent to Allan Donald and at 23 his future still lies ahead of him.

Rutherford, the competitive and engaging Kiwi who was adopted by Gauteng after burning his bridges with his native country, gave up the provincial captaincy to Clive Eksteen last seaso, but nevertheless played a significant role in Gauteng's SuperSport series triumph.

For the second successive season he totalled more than 800 runs in the competition and he brought to a dormant province a spirit of adventure which has significantly influenced many of his young Gauteng team-mates.

Drakes, meanwhile, has made an equivalent impact on South African cricket since joining Border in the 1996/97 season. His 60 wickets last season was an improvement on the 56 he took the previous summer and in both cases he played a crucial role in taking Border to the SuperSport Series final.

It is a mystery why he has not played Test cricket, particularly over the past few years as the West Indies have found themselves overdependent on the veteran pair of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. The West Indies' loss, however, has been Border's gain.

After bursting into Test cricket with a share in the record ninth-wicket partnership with Pat Symcox, Boucher went through two ordinary campaigns in England in 1998 and 1999 with little noticeably improvement as an international player. Last summer, however, he seemed to shift up a gear with two centuries as nightwatchman and two more records as the youngest and quickest Test wicketkeeper to claim 100 victims.

He acceded to the South African vice-captaincy at the age of 23, played an important role in the unravelling of the match-fixing scandal and seems set to become a cornerstone of the national team for many years to come.

As does Kallis, now recognised as one of the world's leading all-rounders. He averaged 61,20 with the bat in the nine Test matches he played last summer and confirmed his ability to swing the ball at good pace once again.

He is, very much, an all-purpose cricketer of unflappable temperament and the only question mark against him now is how long he can function in the key number three position while still carrying a full load as a vital member of the South African pace attack and pouching everything that comes his way at slip.

The cut-off point for this year's awards was the end of the Australian tour to South Africa in April. For deadline reasons, the mid-winter tour to Sri Lanka, Australia and Singapore was not considered.

As ever, since Colin Bryden took over the editorship in the mid-1990s, the Mutual and Federal is a well-produced, reliable record of the past year's achievements. It is, in fact, the authoritative voice of South African cricket.