Saturday, 20 September 2008

Supporters Player of the Season - Charl Langeveldt

The term "Kolpak" has evolved from one that describes a sportsman on a passport of convenience to one that is even more disparaging. Many players have used the loophole, which is essentially what it is, as a means of making a quick buck and have offered little in return. No names, no packdrill, but look around the county circuit and they will be obvious.

There have, of course been exceptions. Dale Benkenstein has led Durham with skill and has showed a tactical nous beyond many of his peers. HD Ackerman has bolstered a poor Leicestershire side over several seasons with his consistent batting displays and others like Ryan McLaren at Kent and Lance Klusener at Northants have given excellent value.

When Charl Langeveldt's name was linked with a move to Derby earlier in the year there were eyebrows raised. Surely he was in the frame to tour England with the South Africans? There were also several other - bigger, according to the press - counties in for him, so why would he choose Derbyshire?

When he did eventually sign after a delay that matched the "phony war" of 1939, we were all pleased. He'd done well in a brief spell at Leicester, less well in a shorter one at Somerset, but he came from a sensational season back home where he produced extraordinary figures, especially in 20/20 matches. We knew he was a man of principle, as he had by that stage retired from international cricket in protest at the quota system in the South African game. He was quite happy to be picked on merit, but not merely because of the colour of his skin.

South Africa's loss has definitely been our gain. It was a loss for them, as despite winning the Test series in this country, they appeared to have some fine fast bowlers but no one who could really put it on the spot consistently, especially when the focus switched to one day cricket.

From the start, Langeveldt has been an outstanding player for Derbyshire, nothing more, nohing less. Only Michael Holding in my memory has so consistently carried the burden of being both shock and stock bowler. Charl is a burly man, solidly built, probably as close to the ideal for a fast bowler as it is possible to be. From start to finish of the season he has walked back to the start of his runup and come in flat out every day, an economic action being the precursor to a baffling array of deliveries.

Quick one. Slow one. The one that swings away late. The one that cuts back. The toe crushing yorker (available in two varieties). The occasional bouncer just to keep batsmen on their toes. Langeveldt has them all and bowls them with such skill that we are surprised when he goes for - horror of horrors - three an over. In the 20/20 competition, no one really got hold of him and it has been especially noticeable, even on great batting tracks (Essex in the Pro 40) that when the ball has been flying everywhere, Langeveldt still has commanded respect. It is a pleasure to once again have an opening bowler who you EXPECT to take wickets. You don't hope with Charl, he's too good for that.

Times many this season he has been given the ball when batting was easy and has broken through, or tied things down at one end to the benefit of the man at the other. It's the old trick and many's the bowler who has profited from the accuracy of a Hendrick, Cartwright, Shackleton, Gladwin and Jackson. We've not had one for some time and it has been a pleasure to watch a craftsman in action.

The statistics don't lie. 413 overs in 12 matches. Only Graham Wagg, perhaps his closest rival for the award with Chris Rogers, has exceeded that and only by two overs. He's also played three more matches, so Langeveldt's workload has been considerable. He has had a niggle from his knee and a slight back problem but you'd not know that from the way he has run in. As the one day season has fallen apart from the side he has had an opportunity to rest for these matches, but his 54 wickets at 22 are testimony to the skill of his bowling. A further 16 wickets in one day matches at just 18 each, plus eight 20/20 victims at just under 15 tell their own story. So too does his run rate in the short slog game - a shade over five and a half an over. Amazing really.

I've not mentioned his batting and fielding. We didn't expect much from his batting but he has entertained when he has made it to the middle. An average of 17 from a man who has mainly batted at eleven is prefectly acceptable and the fact that 2/3 of these have come in boundaries show his attitude. The agricultural heave is a favorite shot, sometimes with more textbook strokes, but Charl really should be accompanied to the crease in matches to the music of "One man went to mow". It is often short, but never less than exhilarating.

His fielding meanwhile is like his bowling. Total commitment and if not the most lithe of movers he does what is required and has a good pair of hands when the need arises.

It has been a genuine pleasure to have Charl in the Derbyshire side this season and with the reassurance of his being back next year we can enjoy the winter. I hope that he continues in the colours for years to come, by which stage he will have cemented his place in Derbyshire cricket folklore.

Well done Charl - and thanks from all of us!

No comments: