Sri Lankan cricket legend, Sanath Jayasuriya, has signed for the Durban based, South African domestic cricket franchise, the Dolphins, for the next two years.
Jayasuriya, in the twilight of his career at 39, is still a dangerous and destructive batsman, particularlily in limited over and T20 cricket, and a useful spin bowler as well. Having retired from Test cricket Jayasuriya is still involved in ODI and T20 cricket for Sri Lanka.
The Dolphins were one of the most consistent domestic performers in the 90’s in South African cricket, and enjoyed a very successful mid 90’s period, when, lead my coach Graham Ford and captain Malcomb Marshall, the West Indian legend, they brought through a group of talented youngsters in Dale Benkenstein, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusner and Niel Johnson, in a team that also had South African players Jonty Rhodes, Andrew Hudson and Pat Symcox. Since the restructuring of domestic cricket in South Africa, with the formation of the franchise system, the Dolphins have had a lean time of things, with just one trophy, a sharing of the 4 day competition with the Eagles, in the last few seasons. The star of that team was current South African batsman Hashim Amla, who was just entering first class cricket. The formation of the franchise system, where the domestic teams in South Africa were cut to just 6, saw all teams but the Dolphins merge geographically with another team. This meant that while the other 5 teams effectively got the pick of the best players from two teams, the Dolphins stayed the same. They have struggled for the most part and have been hurt even more with the loss of experienced players over the last few years in Benkenstein, Klusner and now Pollock. They have had to rely on a youthful team who have found things tougher than they had hoped.
The Dolphins did enjoy a great run in the MTN Pro 20 Series last season, reaching the final, when they had been expected to finish bottom of the log, gaining a place in the Champions League. What they have needed is an experienced player or two to come in and bring stability and campaign knowledge to a team that has shown glimpses of potential. HD Ackerman was signed for next season for that very reason and adding Jayasuriya to the mix will surely aid the team, and help in the development of the likes of Imran Khan and others. Jayasuriya has played a record 421 ODI’s and 110 Tests, and that type of experience would be welcome by any team.
The signing of Jayasuriya, and Ackerman, has shown that the current Dolphins set up are aware of what is needed to get the team back to where it should be, challenging for trophies, and the Sri Lankan batsman will relish the challenge turning a team starved of success into a winning combination.
Next season is looking good for the Dolphins. Much will now be expected, but the optimism and action will be welcomed by all in Durban.