Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Prince of no frills

Ashwell Prince has generally projected himself well on most outings since the first we saw of him. He was initiated to international cricket in a much-awaited Test series in 2001-02 when South Africa were nightmarishly hammered at home by Adam Gilchrist and Australia. Amid the rubble of demolished reputations Prince managed to stay up for the part of this doughty newcomer not born with the silver spoon of phenomenal talent yet prepared to take the hard route to the next level.

Since that debut of his, Prince has done only moderate justice to the opportunities offered to him by the UCBSA. He has looked a better batsman than his average of 32 in Test cricket suggests. His batsmanship, though, is quite a loud shout away from that other Prince of world cricket, Brian Lara. Ashwell is, in some ways, a fill-in for the retired Gary Kirsten at another batting position. An analogy with the pre-2001 Justin Langer would perhaps be as appropriate.

Prince has been shaping up rather well in one-day internationals. The ODI average of 44 appears distinctly healthy if his more-than-fair share of not-outs are discounted. Ashwell's crisp fielding efforts inside the circle helps restore competitive edge to the traditionally supreme South African fielding unit that, in the recent past, took a retrograde step from the unearthly 90's regime of Jonty Rhodes Inc.

The big scores against leading teams were yet to come off Ashwell's blade in the Tests though. Quite unsurprising - he hardly ever played a Test against a top side since his debut series. In the current clash Down Under Prince completes a full circle on his spiral way up to the upper tiers. He is back facing the same world beating adversaries and, going by his response to calamity at a key juncture of the Sydney Test, making a stepping stone out of it - in their backyard.

Not too bad a feat by the gritty batsman notwithstanding the oddity that Warne, after scalping Prince nine times in the eleven innings that the South African has played against Australia, will continue to perceive him as a walking wicket of the Cullinan variety.
[cross posted at Different Strokes]

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