Mark Pennell talks to former Kent bowler Fanie de Villiers

Wednesday 13th January 2010

By Mark Pennell
Kent“s former overseas star Fanie de Villiers believes the influx of South African Kolpak players into county cricket has helped improve the standard of domestic cricket in both countries.

De Villiers, Kent“s overseas professional in 1990, runs his own business empire nowadays as well as fronting a cricket chat show on South African Television.

Part-time media work has allowed de Villiers to watch plenty of cricket in recent seasons and monitor the progress of Kent“s party of Proteas; Wayne Parnell, Martin van Jaarsveld, Ryan McLaren, Tyron Henderson, Morne Morkel, Andrew Hall and Justin Kemp.

Though his experience of playing for Kent proved a difficult one – de Villiers finished the 1990 campaign with only 25 wickets at an average of 39.68 after the TCCB opted to reduce the seam on the ball that summer – he believes the likes of Parnell, Morkel and McLaren all benefited from playing county cricket with Kent.

“As a young bowler you must use county cricket as a stepping stone. It“s a must,” added the 45-year-old from Vereeniging in the Transvaal; “The experience you get in just a few months is immense.

“You get spoilt by bouncy wickets back home in South Africa, but when you come to play in county cricket on the different pitches and loams that they use, you soon realise you have to do something with the ball if you“re to succeed.

“County cricket is more of a learning school rather than a finishing school. In England you play in different conditions every day and you need to try hard for your wickets.

“You learn to start bowling yorkers and three-quarter paced away-swingers from wide of the crease to get batsmen chasing you.

“It“s those intricacies and variations that you only learn in English cricket. You don“t learn them in South Africa because you don“t have to, you get wickets there with pace and bounce.”

One of the proudest South African“s you could ever wish to meet, de Villiers says he is delighted by the success of Kent“s vice captain and leading run-getter Martin van Jaarsveld, as well as the other South Africans who have starred for Kent in recent years.

He added: “The likes of Martin van Jaarsveld and Dave Callaghan could have been batting superstars for South Africa. “Look at Martin“s figures, he has been one of the top six or seven openers in South Africa, and I“m talking over a span of 15 years or more. But why didn“t they pick him more? Because of our targets.

“We don“t call them quotas any more, but I can tell you, because of our development programme, our selection targets, Martin hardly got a look in, and no one can blame him for trying his luck as a Kolpak.

“I“m delighted he“s done so well with Kent and pleased to hear that he“s staying on for a few more years yet.

“Martin, Wayne Parnell, Morne and Ryan, we are absolutely proud of them. They are the best possible ambassadors for our game and our production system through the South African schools, which we feel is the best in the world.”

Picture: Getty Images