Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Guest blog: Daryn Smit - Derbyshire's four-dimensional cricketer by Huw Lloyd

In modern cricket we are always told that cricketers cannot be one-dimensional anymore. If they are, a bowler they must learn to contribute with the bat and, if a batsman can offer a few overs to give frontline bowlers a breather, then their stock rises. Also, now gone are the days of Phil Tufnell and Monty Panesar having to be hidden in the field, everyone must be able to field and catch.

Derbyshire this season, though, have gone one better and signed Daryn Smit, who is potentially the world’s first true four dimensional cricketer: a middle order batsman averaging 36 in first-class cricket, a wicket keeper with over 350 dismissals, an excellent slip fielder and, finally, a leg spin bowler with over 100 first-class wickets to his name.

So far he has done all four for Derbyshire this summer, following a spell for the seconds last season where he scored a double hundred against Glamorgan. The club made him wait, however, as Smit tells the story.

“Scoring a double hundred on trial was a dream, but with the restructuring of the club nothing came through, contract-wise,” he said. “So I went back to South Africa and completed another season at home there, and was very much hoping to hear something.

“I put my feelers out and was hoping perhaps something would happen but nothing came through. Then on March 8 an offer came through from Derbyshire, which was late as county offers go, but very much an offer that you can’t say no to.”

I am sure that following Smit’s start to the season, Derbyshire and their fans will glad that he didn’t say no.

At one point last season, Derbyshire’s wicket-keeping cupboard looked pretty bare. The retirement of Tom Poynton due to injury left the club with just 19-year-old Harvey Hosein, who performed well. Then with the signing of Gary Wilson from Surrey, it appeared that Smit’s wicket keeping gloves would not be required.

However, with Wilson away on international duty it has been Smit and not Hosein who has been keeping, not what the all-rounder was expecting.

“When they signed me they made it clear they were signing me as a batsmen,” he said. “The keeping side of things had been taken care of. [They were] wanting to be open and honest with me, so I wasn’t disappointed.

“But then, as its turned out over the last few weeks with Gary [Wilson] away, the captain’s choice has been to use me rather than go to the youngster in Harvey, which has been great.

“I’ve absolutely loved being back there behind the stumps; its turned out really brilliantly.”
Anyone who has seen Smit keep, while Wilson has been away with Ireland, would find it hard to disagree with that decision. His glove work has been superb, hardly conceding a bye and effecting two stumpings, taking seven catches and also being credited with a run out.

So what is his strongest dimension? Smit is very clear where he feels his biggest strength lies, and that is with his keeping.
“My whole career, I’ve always been a wicket keeper. When I was first selected for South Africa Under 19s, AB de Villiers was the back-up wicket-keeper to me. That’s always what I’ve been about.”

However, like all good players, Smit has recognised the need to evolve and develop his game, and not be one-dimensional. He can see clearly how this has happened.

“As my career has developed, from 2003 onwards really, times have changed and wicket keepers have been forced to contribute with the bat. If you look at the way my career has panned out, I was always a keeper who could kind of chip in, but as a result of supply and demand I’ve been forced to develop my batting and make much bigger contributions.

“I think that’s shown through in the stats over the years, as I’ve got older and developed my batting. So much so that, over the last few seasons, I’ve played as just a batsman.”

Smit’s realisation of the need to evolve, and add extra dimensions to his game, will be something that as a senior player Derbyshire will be hoping he can pass on to their young squad. It’s something Smit was keen to point out was part of his role at the club.

“It’s not just about scoring the runs, taking the catches, or wickets out there in the middle, particularly in the set-up we have at Derbyshire without a head coach as such.

“To be able to support Billy (Godleman) as captain, to be another senior player in there to develop others; in my case I can make contributions to wicket keepers, leg spinners and batsmen and to try and develop the youngsters.

“Any contribution I can make can go a long way to helping the club develop.”

If Smit can help develop other players into cricketers as well rounded as him, this may even be his fifth dimension.

The new off field structure at Derbyshire is agreeing with Smit since his arrival, and the South African was singing its praises.

“I’m absolutely loving it. Not having a head coach breathing down your neck as such has allowed me that freedom. As an experienced 33-year-old who knows what it takes to perform at my peak, and get the best out of myself, it’s given me that space and freedom to do it.”

Smit was also keen to point out, though, that it did mean that extra responsibility on him and other senior players to nurture the younger players in the squad.

“That onus and responsibility falls on us, as a core of senior players, to help them learn their game and to show them the ropes.”

It’s clear that Smit is enjoying his move to Derbyshire and is enjoying the challenge of playing first-class cricket in England.

“Every week, every team you play against, you’re coming up against international quality players, whether it’s an overseas player or a local guy who’s played international cricket for England.

“You just don’t get that in South Africa. Very rarely do you get to play against international players and, as a professional cricketer that’s you want: to be testing yourself against the best in the world. The last game, we faced up against Nathan Lyon. That was a great challenge; it’s very rare to get that challenge in South Africa and I’m loving it.”

Derbyshire and their supporters will be hoping that Smit continues to enjoy his time and cricket for the county, and contributes with all four dimensions to his game on and off the field for years to come.

I have no doubt that Smit will be a great success for the club, and that he has the potential to write his name into the club’s history books with bat, ball, gloves and in the field. I look forward to watching him do so.

 Huw Lloyd (@Lloydzilla) for Deep Extra Cover.

Used with permission.


David Woolley said...

Because of his age I wasn't sure about the County signing him. I didn't want us to become a mirror of Leicestershire by signing older players just to plug gaps.
On the occasions i've seen him this year, I am coming round to thinking that he could be a very shrewd signing.
His first couple of games, one could tell from beyond the boundary that he was very nervous. Those nerves, quite rightly have started to go away with each performance. I think Daryn needs to get himself one big score, and then we will see the best of him.
I am particularly looking forward to seeing how he performs in the T20, as based on playing alongside some of the best in World cricket and also bearing in mind how much he has played in that format, he could become a key player for us.
I'm sure all Derbyshire supporters wish him all the best and hope he can contribute to an improvement in the clubs fortunes.

Anonymous said...

Well im afraid i cant agree, his batting has been a big let down thus far, yes his keeping has been excellent, but its shorttermism - a homegrown potential star will leave due to this short termism. Based on what he was signed for, a batsmen, hes looked out of his depth and should really be in danger of being dropped. Hopefully he improves as hes doing worse than Neil Broom currently who was a waste of money.


Peakfan said...

How do you know someone will leave? You don't. I can't think of a county with a poor keeper and to drop your 'excellent' keeper would be daft. We have covered this ad nauseum now...

notoveryet said...

It’s a bit odd, Huw, to compliment Smit’s wicket-keeping (which we didn’t need), his slip catching (which we definitely did), and his bowling (which might be useful but hardly essential), but not mention his batting struggles in 4 day cricket. That was the reason he was brought in, and he hasn’t delivered yet. It’s a bit like hiring a decorator to paint peeling woodwork, finding after a couple of weeks that hardly a lick of paint has been applied, but saying “we must give him longer, just look at the beautiful abstracts he’s been painting, the wonderful landscapes he’s been capturing, and the brilliant cartoons he’s been drawing”. The reality is that he’s here to improve on Broom’s very modest contribution last year, and he’s not even equalling it. His focus (and ours) should be on improvement with the bat, rather than the range of other things he’s doing. David may be right that all he needs is one big score and he’ll be away, but we spent all last year saying that about Broom, and it never came.

I agree with Peakfan that we’ve gone over the Hosein v Smit wicket keeping issue ad nauseum, but for me, and I suspect others, the issue isn’t about which of them should be keeping wicket. That was settled when Gary Wilson was signed. Neither is it really whether he might leave or not, though to my mind, there are at least two counties in Glamorgan and Warwickshire who might be looking for replacement wicket-keeper / batsmen before too long, and waiting a year or two there might be preferable to the possibility of five years or more at Derby, assuming he’s kept that long. It’s about the huge batting talent that started to be realised at the end of last season, particularly bearing in mind that he was scoring his runs in tough situations batting mostly with the tail. For me, the issue is that we have a young player who has gone from being one of the undoubted successes of 2016 to third in line for a single position, with no real prospect of another contract if Wilson and Smit stay. This will have a corrosive effect on the aspiration, ambition and drive of other young players, and in the longer-term, on our ability to attract the kind of young players that the long-term future of the club depends on.

It’s also depressing for supporters that having endured two of the most miserable seasons I can recall in the interest of growing our own, just as one of the few fruits of that process begins to mature, he is sidelined and marginalised. None of this matters if results justify it, but an average of 20 and a top score of 40 in 4 games (more than a quarter of the season< remember) are decidedly not what we need. Turn it on its head: if Hosein was in the team with these results, would we be saying of him that he just needs longer? And as I said a couple of days ago, it isn’t just Smit whose form needs scrutiny. We have Slater, Hughes and Madsen all averaging 20, and Reece not a lot better without his century against declaration bowling. Everyone’s place needs to be under scrutiny when results are as bad as they have been, and if you were picking a Derbyshire team on current form alone, you probably would start scratching your head after Godleman, Thakor, Wilson, and perhaps Mendis (for his bowling alone). Yes, of course past accomplishment and proven class has to come into the equation, but we don’t have 7 other players to whom that applies. That’s finally been recognised with the McKerr loan in respect of the bowling, but the same handful of under-performing batsmen are being recycled when we might have part of the answer in our second team on the rare occasions they play.

Anonymous said...

peakfan, excellent news about your wife, delighted for you both and family, regarding cricket,we are clearly not getting promoted. As such the 4 day season is effectively a free run for us to experiment and give kids a go, as we have nothing to lose now. So why not play a exciting prospect and give him the chance to develop even more, rather than playing a 35 tear journeyman who is clearly not the future of the club, in games that are dead rubbers. How will HH get better if doesnt play? If we still had a chance of promotion i can perhaps see your point of playing smit (if indeed he really is the best of the 3) but as these are dead rubbers it just seems a wasted opportunity. By all means play smit in the T20, but dead rubber CC games there is no valid reason that HH isnt given a run. That is unless there is something going on behind the scenes re the Tom KC situation at Worcs.