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Junior Dala has hit the ground running

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Junior_Dala_South_Africa_CricketThis South African limited overs team is nowhere near the high standards of their predecessors. You cannot feel the same aggression, the same fire in their eyes. Most importantly, they are not the same intimidating team anymore, the team that South Africa always used to be.

In fact, they are meek. They are submissive. And they give up too easily. It seems that they haven't inherited the good qualities of their predecessors. What they have inherited is the ‘Chokers’ tag and they are choking more frequently than the previous teams did.

Their batting standards are deteriorating proportionally to the ever-improving standards of their bowling. The team depends on the senior batting trio of Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla so much that their strength is reduced considerably in their absence.

However, if you have followed their recently concluded T20I series against India, you would think that there is not much hope beyond the first team bowlers as well, considering the way their second string bowlers have performed in this series.

Even their fielding standard has been below par. Look at the numerous catches they have dropped, the numerous times they have committed misfields, and you will know that this is not the same South African side the world once feared.

If you are standing in a battle field just after the end of the battle between the two sides—India and South Africa— India will be celebrating, having emerged victorious. Turn around and you will see the ruins of the South African team. The diamond that you find shining amidst those ruins providing a rare hope or a ray of light is Junior Dala.

Dala claimed a total of 7 wickets in the three T20Is against India. Although those wickets came at the cost of 110 runs and an economy of 9.17, don't let these numbers fool you. He bowled far better than they suggest.

 

Look at the batsmen he has accounted for in this series: Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni. Imagine what it means for someone playing his first ever international series for his country to claim the wickets of these batsmen. And none of these wickets were lucky scalps. He seems to be a natural inswing bowler who has the ability to extract steep bounce off the surface, that too at a brisk pace. He exposed Rohit’s weakness against in-swinging deliveries as he claimed Rohit’s wicket in all the three matches. He has all the bragging rights after claiming these wickets.

 

There have been other newcomers who have stood out, like Heinrich Klaasen and Christian Jonker. Klaasen singlehandedly pulled off two victories in rain-curtailed matches for his team with brilliant batting performances and Jonker almost led his team to victory in the series decider with a whirlwind innings of 49. But they haven't been as consistent or as persistent as Dala has been, even though Junior did not get the required support from the other end. That is exactly where Dala has stood out among the rest.

What has been more intriguing about him in the whole series is his aggressive attitude that, coupled with the fire in his eyes, put him on top of the opposition on most occasions. Even if the opposition tried to attack and dominate him, he showed that he was not someone who backs down. These are qualities that the world has always associated with South African players.

His fielding has been top notch throughout the series as well. Remember the way he ran Shikhar Dhawan out in the series decider? The way he ran around the deep midwicket boundary, picked up the ball and threw it towards the striker’s end? And how accurate was the throw from such a long distance that it hit the wickets directly, catching Dhawan inches short of his crease?

Yes. That is Junior Dala —giving his hundred percent, whether it was his bowling or fielding. With most of the Protea players showing poor standards of ground fielding and catching on that day, Dala’s brilliance on the field was a cool breeze on a sultry summer afternoon.

It did take him the first couple of overs to settle down and get into a rhythm on his debut T20I at Johannesburg. Since then it looked like the 28-year old has taken to this South African team like a duck to water.

His energy, attitude and character are completely in sync with the energetic, aggressive and intimidating South African team that the world has always known. And that makes him a foil for this South African Team that needs more players like him, if they want to stand a chance in the upcoming World Cup in 2019.

 

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Prasenjit, a techie by profession and Sports writer by passion, hails from the 'City of Joy'-Kolkat...

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