No one outside of South Africa knows much about Dwaine Pretorius, and even here his champions are few and far between. This is partly because of franchise cricket, the under-scrutinised level at which he plays, and partly because, being naturally undemonstrative, he tends not to draw attention to himself.
Then there's the problem of nomenclature. He arrived on the scene as an imminently noticeable T20 power-hitter but now finds himself a bowling allrounder, with two destructive first-class centuries under his belt in the 2015-16 season simply adding to everyone's confusion. He's tall, strong and willing, and although his gammy right knee is perpetually in a brace, his vaulting development has outstripped the pace at which he has been talked about and noticed.
It's not so much a case of being unable to elbow his way into the shop window but what role he plays when he gets there.
But noticed he has been - at least by his fellow professionals. The SA Players' Association (SACA) placed him top of the table last season in their ranking of the most valuable players, in which all three formats are condensed into one chart, a sort of one-man Leicester City over bigger-name rivals. Partly this has to do with his ability to bowl an awayswinger at about Vernon Philander's pace to the right-hander, a handy weapon to have, but partly it has to do with his priceless ability to insinuate himself into a game.
We talk glowingly of busy players, lithe accumulators like Jonty Rhodes or Joe Root, but less of those who gain access to the game via the alley or side door. Tally up the wickets at the end of an innings and suddenly Pretorius has three or four. He has taken 36 of them in ten first-class games this season, three fewer than Dane Piedt and two fewer than Marchant de Lange.
"We think we can still give him a yard of pace," says Gordon Parsons, his bowling coach at Lions. "We want him to keep his right foot on the ground for fractionally longer - giving him just slightly more stability."
"He's not a shortcut kind of guy, so there's something to work on in the off season."
"We think we can still give him a yard of pace. We want him to keep his right foot on the ground for fractionally longer - giving him just slightly more stability"Gordon Parsons, Lions' bowling coach
Pretorius' climb has been so Apollo-like that it was only in the 2014-15 season that he received his first full contract at Lions. At that point the discussion was about successors to Zander de Bruyn and Pretorius was seen to be number two or three in the pecking order, certainly behind Chris Morris and possibly neck and neck with Brett Pelser.
To Parsons' enduring amazement - he thought Morris should have cemented his position at six in the Lions' batting order - the rangy allrounder headed up the road to Titans a season ago, and suddenly coach Geoff Toyana was looking to Pretorius to fulfil the Morris role. This he did with remarkable facility. In seven Sunfoil Series matches in the 2014-15 season before last, Morris took 32 wickets; in three more games this season, Pretorius took four more.
Parsons sees Pretorius as a hard worker and good learner. He was born in Randfontein, educated in Rustenburg (platinum-mining and fruit-farming country) and found his way to Tukkies in Pretoria for his university education. His path, therefore, has been unfashionable and circuitous. What he has lacked in having a head start he has made up for by spending punishing hours on the Lions rowing machine and being very deliberate in how and what he learns. "He's a clever boy," says Parsons. "No disrespect to his family but it's really rugby that was their first game, so he's had no great advantages to start off with. He listens and weighs things up. It's one of the things I like about him."
Parsons isn't convinced that Pretorius is an international cricketer, taking the opportunity to point out cheekily that "he's certainly no worse than David Wiese". This may well be right but, still, it has been pleasing to see something good at last come out of a season of hand-wringing and rampant discontent.
More good news emerged last week with the announcement that Grant Morgan has been appointed to take over coaching duties from Lance Klusener at Dolphins. If Pretorius is a growing speck on the radar, then Morgan has tended to be missed altogether, although he points out with customary jauntiness that he offered Pretorius - then a properly quick fast bowler just out of school - a bursary at Tukkies eight or nine years ago, so their paths have overlapped.
If Pretorius has climbed the ladder since, Morgan has gone around in circles. It got so bad that a year ago he was handing out flyers at the intersection of Republic Road and Oxford in northern Johannesburg, advertising a coaching initiative by himself and former Lions coach Dave Nosworthy. Nothing really got going there because shortly afterwards Morgan was offered an assistant job to Malibongwe Maketa at Warriors, a good place to be, but once again Morgan was standing still. Then came Dolphins' three-year contract - and with it, room to breathe. When I ask Morgan if he's negotiated Claudio Ranieri-like bonuses for every position Dolphins finish higher on the log, he does the verbal equivalent of shrug.
"For me it's never been about the money."
Luke Alfred is a journalist based in Johannesburg