A quintessential team man

"I have looked at cricket more as a team game. I would rather like to take two wickets that impact a game than get great figures that don’t influence the result," says Wayne Parnell.

Wayne Parnell... “I would like to keep controlling things that I can control."   -  PTI

Wayne Parnell celebrates with his Delhi Daredevils teammates after dismissing a Mumbai Indians batsman. "Every young cricketer should play in the IPL. You have to soak in the atmosphere. You could learn a lot from international cricketers and the local Indian cricketers," says the South African.   -  PTI

Looking far away at the imposing Kolagappara rock that stands majestically as if guarding the picturesque Wayanad Cricket Stadium in north Kerala, Wayne Parnell speaks slowly, softly and distinctly. He is disappointed that a hamstring injury prevented him from bowling in the second innings of the first unofficial Test between India ‘A’ and South Africa ‘A’. The South African knows that it diminished the chances of a victory for his team considerably. Yet, he is not an unhappy man. He had bowled well in India’s first innings, extracting good bounce on a lifeless track.

The left-arm pacer, who is also a handy batsman down the order, did not play in the second unofficial Test, in which India ‘A’ crushed South Africa ‘A’ by an innings and 81 runs, because the team management wanted to give opportunities to other pace bowlers in the squad.

Parnell knows he is considered more of a specialist for the shorter formats; he has played 46 One Day Internationals and 35 T20 Internationals for South Africa, but only four Tests.

Going by the promise Parnell, 26, showed early in his career, greater things were expected of him. But as he tells Sportstar in this interview, he has had a few injuries that set his career back on a few occasions.

“I would like to keep controlling things that I can control. Hard work and ethics are important. At the end of the day, if you can tick those boxes, success should follow,” he says.

Excerpts:

Question: Are you happy with the way your career has progressed? You were the youngest player ever to be handed a national contract by Cricket South Africa; you had captained your country at the Under-19 World Cup and had a lot of success as a teenager...

Answer: I am aware that I had raised big expectations when I was younger, and I don’t know how I measure up for others, but I am fairly happy with what I have done. Yes, I would like to do more; I have a long-term goal to do well in Tests even as being a regular in the shorter formats.

You see, I have looked at cricket more as a team game. I would rather like to take two wickets that impact a game than get great figures that don’t influence the result. I want to achieve personally too but for me, my team winning is more important. In the long run, I know that I have to look at my stats too.

Sometimes I think I get carried away by thinking too much about performances. I want to keep things simple. I feel it is important to share the knowledge with experienced guys.

How disappointing was the World Cup campaign down under for South Africa? You had a great team under AB de Villiers…

Yes, it was a great team. It was a massive honour being one of those 15 guys, and it was my second World Cup. I think we did well to reach the semi-finals. It felt nice to get rid of the label that said we could not get to the knockout stage. We managed to do that. That was quite a successful World Cup in that regard, though we would have loved to do more and lift the World Cup — but it wasn’t to be. We are on an up curve and we have similar group of players for the next World Cup. There is no reason why we shouldn’t do well again.

Some of your best performances came in 2009 when you excelled in the ICC World T20 and the ICC Champions Trophy, in which you were the leading wicket-taker…

Doing well for my country in two important ICC events meant a great deal to me. The performance at the Champions Trophy was particularly nice as I was making a comeback after three months following an injury.

A few months later, you made your Test debut against England at Johannesburg…

South Africa has a rich Test history, and to be part of that was special. It felt great picking up the wickets of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen on my Test debut. I also cherish taking the wicket of Mike Hussey — who I always looked up to as a batsman — in what was my first ODI at home, in 2009 at Centurion.

You were the Man of the Match in that game…

Yes, that was one of my best performances for South Africa; I took some crucial wickets. As I was saying earlier, my attitude all along has been to do it for the team.

Like you did in Sharjah against Pakistan two years ago, in that thriller of an ODI that South Africa won by one run. You had claimed important wickets after scoring a half-century. Yes, that has been one of the finest moments in my career. I also cherish my first five-for for South Africa, which I got against New Zealand in the 2009 Champions Trophy. The five-for against England in the ODI series that year is also very special.

When you started as a left-arm pace bowler, which bowlers did you look up to?

The two Indian left-armers, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. I had watched both of them bowl in South Africa and felt they were the best left-arm pace bowlers in the world at the time. I also admired Wasim Akram.

What do you think of the current Indian fast bowlers?

India has a good pace attack now. I think Umesh Yadav is bowling really well, clocking up speeds of 140 kms consistently. Varun Aaron and Ishant Sharma too are doing well. I feel it is nice that India now has wickets like the one in Mohali that are conducive to fast bowling.

Your thoughts on Kumar Sangakkara and Michael Clarke, who have retired from international cricket?

I have played against both, and world cricket will miss them. Clarke is really a top guy and playing against him has always been very competitive. Sanga is an unbelievable cricketer. He is a very nice guy as well. He greets you always and chats with you. For me Sanga is one of the top batsmen of all time.

How have you enjoyed your experience in the IPL?

It was very special playing with cricketers from all over the world. Every young cricketer should play in the IPL. You have to soak in the atmosphere. You could learn a lot from international cricketers and the local Indian cricketers. You learn many things, including cultural, from them. Cricket, remember, is also about learning.