The Dolphins, the Durban based franchise, have announced the signing f West Indian batsman Chris Gayle for the 2012 Pro 20 Series.
The east coast team had a successful period in the mid to late 90’s, under current coach Graham Ford, when players like Malcolm Marshall, Jonty Rhodes, Andrew Hudson and Pat Symcox were joined by a clutch of highly talented, energetic and eager young guns, lead by Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusner and Dale Benkenstein. The team won the domestic double in the 96/97 season. Four day competitions were won in 94/95, 96/97, 01/02, 04/05, 05/06 as well as limited over triumphs in 96/97 and 01/02, with the team being trophyless since 2006. They have yet to win the Pro 20 Series.
A number of experienced players have been released in the last two seasons, including HD Akerman, Johan Louw, Andrew Hall, Alfonso Thomas and recently Jon Kent, as the Dolphins have decided restructuring is needed to get the team back in a title challenging position. Youngsters such as Dave Miller, Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Kyle Abbot are the teams future, and when available Protea’s players Hashim Amla, Imraan Tahir and Loots Bosman, should make the team competitive. However it’s the signing of Gayle and Aussie speedster Shaun Tait that signals their intention loud and clear.
T20 cricket is where the money is. The finalists in the Pro 20 Series will go on to the Champions League and the domestic riches to follow. This is where the Dolphins have decided to focus and pin their hopes on. They have gambled on overseas players before, Ravi Bopara had a decent run in the Pro 40 Series last season, whule Sanath Jayasuria has been less successful in his Pro 20 games for the Dolphins. Gayle and Tait should prove less risky than the Sri Lankan who was rapidly approaching the end of his career. Gayle showed in the IPL this year how much he enjoys the T20 game, and the relaxed beach city of Durban should be just what he needs as he travels the various world leagues playing T20 cricket. Shaun Taits body may not hold up to the rigors of longer formats, but he remains a supremely destructive T20 bowler.
While the signings are no doubt expensive, and mean the team will have to supplement the squad with youngsters, it may prove just what the franchise needs. A technically and tactically astute coach like Ford, who’s no stranger to nurturing young talent, the potential of Dave Miller, and the proven talent of Gayle and Tait, could fire the Dolphins to the Pro 20 Series final and with it the Champions League. One trophy is all it takes to get back on track with a winning mentality breeding confidence and added attraction for future stars. This is one gamble that looks more calculated than sure than some may think. The season could be the one the success starved Dolphin fans have been waiting for.
pic from cricinfo.com