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April 9, 2012
Vernon Philander, South Africa's new-ball Test sensation, admitted it is "a good thing" he did not get picked up in the IPL this year, because he will benefit more from his stint with Somerset in the County Championship. Philander signed up with Somerset late last year but his contract contained a clause that he would not turn up in Taunton if he secured an IPL deal.
Fate conspired to ensure that Philander would play in England though. Four IPL franchises were reportedly in the running to bid for Philander but no one did and he went unsold at the February 4 auction. His base price was set at $200,000, considered too steep for an international newcomer. Others, like Marchant de Lange, were contracted for $50,000 but Philander's heavy price tag meant he joined the likes of Mark Boucher and Lonwabo Tsotsobe on the sidelines.
The IPL snub meant that Philander's decision was made for him. He headed to Somerset less than a week after arriving back in South Africa from the tour of New Zealand. Gary Kirsten, South Africa's national coach, had expressed concern that Philander would be required to bowl in four-day cricket without much rest in between. But Philander showed no signs of fatigue and opened his English summer with a five-for in his first match. The South African management hopes that his time at Somerset will serve as an ideal preparation for when South Africa tour England this July to challenge for the No. 1 spot in Test cricket.
Philander believes it will. "The IPL has pros and cons, and I think it's a good thing I didn't get it this year," Philander told ESPNcricinfo. "I can do some preparation ahead of the England series."
Philander is no stranger to England. He spent time in the country as a schoolboy during an exchange programme, toured there with the South Africa Under-19s in 2003 and had stints at Devon and Middlesex. The conditions in England are believed to be the best suited to Philander's style of bowling: fast-medium pace, unwavering lines and lengths, slight movement off the seam and swing both ways.
He insists his bowling style will work "anywhere in the world" but said he will not bank on assistance from conditions, no matter where he is playing. "I normally prepare for flat wickets," Philander said before leaving for New Zealand, when talk was rife that seamer-friendly surfaces would be on offer. Philander had success in Dunedin and Wellington, where the pitches suited batting. However, he went wicketless in the second innings in Wellington, the only such instance in his short but successful career.
It was part of the learning curve in his journey as a cricketer and he embraced the challenges wholeheartedly. "It was a long road to get where I am," he said. "I didn't expect to take as many wickets but I did expect to step up to the plate."
Philander was called up to the South Africa Test squad after two profitable seasons in the first-class game, in which he took 94 wickets. He made his Test debut at his home ground, Newlands, but has since taken wickets around the country and in New Zealand.
"I always want to test my skills in different places," he said. For now, the opportunity to do so arises primarily in Test cricket as Philander has not had many opportunities in the other formats. He played an ODI against Sri Lanka in January and is keen to make the transition to the other formats, but is willing to bide his time before journeying to leagues like the IPL.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala