The tragedy of Wayne Parnell’s failed Proteas career

Jaco van der Merwe.

Jaco van der Merwe.

To put that into perspective, consider that the man who started his career with the SA quick is now Indian captain and the No 1 batter in the world…

Some 10½ years ago, two teams lined up for the biggest prize in age-group cricket at the ICC Under-19 World Cup.

One was led by a prolific top-order batsman, who would finish the tournament as the third-highest run-getter and scorer of three centuries in the entire competition.

Their opponents in the final in Kuala Lumpur were led by the tournament’s leading bowler, a left-arm seamer possessing genuine pace, and no mug with the bat either.

The star batsman’s team went on to beat the bowler’s side by 12 runs on the Duckworth/Lewis system, but regardless of the outcome, there were some really exciting talents to nurture for the future, especially in the case of the two skippers.

A decade later and only half of the pair lived up to expectations.

In fact, he has probably even been a notch or two higher than we would have thought.

The other half, I’m afraid to say, never did fulfil the huge promise and in light of this week’s developments, clearly never will.

Today the batsman can make a case for being the finest of his generation as he tops ranking tables as the world’s best batsman in Test and one-day cricket.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, his name is Virat Kohli.

After playing a mere six Tests for his country, having been in and out of the team in all three formats for nine years, the bowler signed a county deal with Worcestershire on Monday, effectively ending his international career.

If you haven’t heard the news and haven’t figured it out, this fellow is none other than Wayne Parnell.

In many ways, he was actually a bigger find than Kohli in 2008. He was fast, he was fiery and most importantly, he was a left-handed bowler – a rare commodity in the game of cricket.

There are plenty of good batters going around, but not left-arm seamers with raw pace.

Go from current international team to team and count how many you can find.

You’ll probably only need one hand, if not one finger.

During a press conference at OR Tambo International upon the team’s return from the World Cup in 2008, coach Ray Jennings loudly proclaimed that Parnell and team-mate Jonathan Vandiar were good enough to play one-day cricket straightaway, as 18-year-olds.

Vandiar struggled wearing the big-boy pants, but not Parnell, as he made his senior international debut only nine months later in Perth and a few months after that, destroyed the Australian top order in tandem with Dale Steyn at Centurion in his finest spell ever for the Proteas in my book.

Sadly his big moments were few and far between, despite seemingly having a free pass to every Proteas squad for years.

It surely wasn’t the national selectors’ fault for not making it.

Kohli, on the other hand, made his senior international debut five months after Kuala Lumpur and never looked back, going on to captain India’s senior team with great success.

I’ve seen reports about Kohli’s intense work ethic over the years and of how Parnell was probably lacking in the discipline department off the field.

Whatever the reason for the great gulf between the two today, I’m not here to judge. I’m here to mourn the quiet death of a once-promising career.

What a tragedy.

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