Kiesy joins the Warriors for South African T20 tournament

Kies2Craig Kieswetter has joined Colin Ingram’s Chevrolet Warriors side for South Africa’s Ram Slam T20 Challenge, which starts in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Speaking at a press conference in Port Elizabeth this week, Craig spoke about the horrendous facial injury he suffered this summer, his loyalty to Somerset and his desire to play international cricket again.

Before he met the press, the 26-year-old keeper-batsman attended his first training session with the Warriors, spending some time in the nets facing their pace attack – who clearly didn’t hold back.

Exciting challenge

Craig started by talking about his desire to help the Warriors succeed in the T20 tournament over the next month.

“I was quite delighted when I got a call from the Warriors to ask if I was available,” Kiesy told the press conference. “There are some pretty cold winters in England. To come and obviously catch up with Colin, who came over to play for Somerset for a couple of months, is exciting.”

“It’s a young squad. I got a real baptism of fire today. I thought I’d get a nice welcoming, but the bowlers were sort of giving me a working over which was interesting!”

The Warriors is the name now used by the combined Eastern Province and Border first class teams and Craig is well aware of their reputation.

“The reputation is that they are a scrapping side. Never give in. And that they really work and work and toil away.

“T20 is a format the guys really enjoy playing. The past four or five years they’ve had a really consistent level of performance and anything I can do to help and offer any nuggets of information, or anything to help the guys progress further in the tournament, that’s my role here.”

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Recovery from injury

Craig will be taking over the gloves for the tournament from regular keeper and former Warriors skipper Davy Jacobs, who is out injured, as well as being a top-order big hitter.

Craig said: “It’s a role I’ve been doing for quite a few years in the UK, something that fits pretty well with my sort of game. It’s unfortunate for Davy and my role is to come in and fill his shoes, something I’m pretty excited about trying to do.”

Craig of course has suffered a serious injury himself this year and spoke of fears that he might lose some of his vision following the game at Northampton in mid-July.

But he also showed that he’s now able to laugh about the injury that threatened his career. When one reporter referred to the now famous ‘selfie’ taken the day after the injury, Craig deadpanned: “You should have seen the state of the other guy!”

He explained: “Coincidentally Colin (Ingram) was there at the same time when he was playing for us. It was a normal sort of four-day game against Northamptonshire and I got a short ball which I tried to pull”.

“I missed and it went straight through the visor and grill of my helmet and sort of broke my nose in three places and shattered my orbital floor. It certainly gave the surgeon a tough task of trying to put me back together.

“Injuries are part and parcel of sport. We’ve seen Davy get injured here. Guys pick up injuries all the time. But just because it was a facial injury it just looked a bit more grotesque.

“There was a bit of concern that I would lose vision because of when your eye drops and the displacement and stuff like that. But a couple of surgeries and some serious sort of recovery and I’m back and good,” he said.

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International ambitions

Before his injury this summer Craig had been enjoying a hugely successful T20 tournament for Somerset. In 10 innings he smashed 497 runs at an average of 49.7 with a highest score of 74, one of six half-centuries.

So, would the Ram Slam T20 Challenge be a good opportunity to remind the England selectors about what he can do?

“Yes”, agreed Craig, “as a professional sportsman, playing international cricket is what it’s all about. When you’re on the cusp of selection to get opportunities to play in formats like this around the world is ideal. The most important thing is for me to contribute for the Warriors. If higher recognitions come again from England then so be it, but I’ll just take it day by day while I’m here.”

The tournament will also give him the opportunity to play on many of South Africa’s Test grounds, something he is looking forward to. The home venues of the Warriors are St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth and Buffalo Park, East London.

“In the UK you get these small county grounds which are picturesque, but you come and you play in big stadiums around the world and you get a lot of fans and a lot of supporters in a competition like this where there’s a lot of media hype. It’s probably the closest thing to international cricket, so for professionals I guess it’s the environment we want to be in.”

Loyalty to Somerset

One reporter noted that Craig had now been with Somerset for seven years. Did that indicate that he was a loyal person?

“I’d like to think so. Somerset is a club – and I’m sure that Colin will tell you – that is very similar to the Warriors. It’s a club where you wouldn’t find many other people that are more passionate about playing for a team or county or a province. So for me it’s pretty much leaving one place and coming to another here which is quite easy for me to fit into – the sort of guys who are pretty similar, very hard-working and driven.

“So for me at Somerset it’s home. It’s where I play, it’s where I live and I enjoy playing there. I’ve signed a new three-year deal, so I’m looking forward to it.”

The Warriors have of course been on the receiving end of Craig’s big hitting themselves in the past. Kiesy played against them for Somerset in the Champions League in India three years ago this month (October 2011). In that match he smashed an unbeaten 56 off 52 balls with four fours and three sixes to help set up a Somerset victory by 12 runs.

“The first time I actually saw Craig was against the Warriors for Somerset in the Champions League T20,” Colin recalled, “and he blitzed 56 not out and that put us out of the competition!”

“He’s an exciting player. It’s just great to have someone with that sort of international exposure joining our young bunch of guys. It’s boosted morale among the group as well.”

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Opportunity to remind the England selectors

Warriors coach Piet Botha told The Herald live website that Kieswetter was exactly what the team needed to fill the void left by the injured Jacobs.

“We requested a player who can bat in the top order and keep because of the injury to Davy. We needed someone available all the time because if you look around the world not everyone is available for all the games.

“He has played well for England and was and ideal candidate because he can fulfil the role of keeping as well,” Botha said.

“I think he has a lot to prove. Many people think he should still be in the England team. I think it’s an opportunity for him, if he does well for the Warriors, to remind them he’s still around.”

You can watch the full press conference here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2D-fEfmaFg

Relive the scorecard from that Somerset Champions League victory over Warriors in October 2011 here: http://www.espncricinfo.com/champions-league-twenty20-2011/engine/current/match/521344.html

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  • Meanwhile, Craig also gave a video interview to the South African Cricket Magazine website and talked about why he had signed for the Warriors.

‘First of all it’s in South Africa and what a country to come and play cricket in,” he said. “You know, one of the most beautiful places to be, never mind for the sport, so that was a huge pulling factor.

“The other thing is the talent and standard of cricket they’ve obviously got from franchise system a long time ago and that’s made the cricket quite tough and competitive and as a player I want to test myself around the world against the best.

“I was delighted when the Warriors came in and I’m just excited to be here and get stuck in with the guys.

“Hopefully it won’t be as windy as I know Port Elizabeth to be! I want to be here and try to contribute for the guys, help as much as I can with anything, especially on the field, but off the field as well, try to pass on any bit of knowledge or help that I can. It’s an exciting experience for me and I’m relishing it.

“First net session back I thought I’d get it quite easy from the guys and got the complete opposite! It’s quite a young squad – full of young guys with a lot of talent. The key point for us this season is to get that talent playing consistently well over a period. So for us as a squad that’s one thing we’ve discussed and one thing we’re looking forward to doing.”

In the same video interview, coach Piet Botha also talks about his hopes for Kiesy over the next four weeks: “I’m expecting big things from him. He’s got a proven track record in Pro 20. He’s played all over the world. He’s also a good keeping option for us now Davy Jacobs is out and from all his experience I think he’ll contribute to our team in terms of experience and helping the young guys.”

You can watch that interview, including footage of Craig batting in the nets, here: http://www.sacricketmag.co.za/i-want-to-test-myself-kieswetter/