Tuesday, 14 March 2017
Smit deal an inspired signing
Today we learned that he has signed a two-year deal with the county, one that could be both shrewd and very important to our prospects for the season ahead.
Smit may not have played international cricket, but his increasingly impressive statistics back home suggest a man who could easily have done so. A lack of a regular place early in his career hindered his development, but in recent winters in South Africa's top tier he has averaged between forty and fifty-plus, the hallmark of a very good player.
Then there are his extraordinary statistics for Ramsbottom in the Lancashire League, where he has been professional for three seasons:
2016 - batting average 86 and 69 wickets at 8.1
2015 - batting average 98 and 65 wickets at 7.75
2014 - batting average 61 and 88 wickets at 7.2
Cynics will say 'that's only league cricket' and no, I don't expect Smit to replicate such statistics in the county game. I do, however, see him as a very important cog in a batting line-up that misfired too often last year.
I have played with and against some very good professionals over the years, some of who struggled with the weight of responsibility, the sense of expectation and the need to be a leader and mentor every time they went on the pitch. Everyone on the opposition ups their game when the pro comes in, while his own team look to the paid man to win them matches. Smit has done that many times and to be hailed as a club's 'greatest-ever professional', when many great names have trod that sward before, is some accolade.
His ability to bat anywhere from three to six in the order will be important, but we have also recruited a man with a successful record as captain and a reputation for taking his responsibilities seriously. The articles in South African newspapers since his retirement from the game there was announced all refer to his being missed as both a leader and a man, no mean testimonial for anyone.
With two excellent wicket-keepers on the staff, Smit may not be seen too often behind the stumps, but he is a more than handy option should they need to switch things around. Were Gary Wilson away with Ireland and Harvey Hosein injured or out of touch, there's a plan C available, one that would enable the fielding of an extra batsman or bowler and avoid a panicked search around other counties. Given that several good judges had him as a strong contender to replace Mark Boucher as South African keeper, he is unlikely to let us down, if required.
Likewise, with two leg-spinners on the staff we may not see him turn his arm over too regularly, but he is a very handy option, if only to offer a little variation if things aren't going our way. With over a hundred first-class wickets, he is some way from an occasional bowler and has won first-class matches with inspired last-day spells.
What we have, most definitely, is a man who gets his head down, works hard and will sell his wicket dearly, unless in the pursuit of a win, when his selfless reputation precedes him. His experience on northern English wickets will stand him in good stead and he will be well aware of how those wickets change as the summer goes on. They will doubtless enjoy him on Radio Derby too, as his occasional commentary work back home has gained plenty of admirers for an articulate man who has earned the nickname 'Speech'.
Derbyshire has had wonderful service from South Africans over the years. Eddie Barlow, Peter Kirsten, Adrian Kuiper, Daryll Cullinan, Charl Langeveldt - each left a major impression on the local cricketing landscape. That's not including Wayne Madsen, another who swapped Durban for Derbyshire and has gone on to be one of our greatest cricketing sons. Come to think of it, Wayne was 'plucked' from the Lancashire League too, so there's a pretty decent precedent in the acquisition of Daryn Smit.
There'll be a lot of South African accents in Derbyshire colours this year. Wayne Madsen, Daryn Smit, Hardus Viljoen, Imran Tahir; that's a solid and impressive core to any side and each will be keen to impress and make the major contribution. Don't bet against the new guy being very firmly in the mix.
Welcome to Derbyshire, Daryn.
Let the good times roll...