Originally published on DV Mace’s Smorgasbord of Sport, 03-Nov-2014.
The art of left-arm unorthodox spin – or Chinaman bowling – is incredibly rare. Only really Brad Hogg, Paul Adams and the one-Test Beau Casson have made decent goes of the art in recent years.
The South African-born Dutchman Michael Rippon, however, is doing is best to rejuvenate the art. At 23, he still has youth on his side (many spinners don’t reach their peak until their late 20s, or even their 30s), and while he’s yet to be a constant within the Netherlands team, he’s certainly there-or-thereabouts.
Rippon also played for Sussex between 2012 and 2013, with a trial with the Surrey second-XI in 2014.
He was one of the shining lights to come out of the disastrous tour of New Zealand in early 2014, when the Netherlands lost ODI status and failed to qualify for the 2015 Cricket World Cup. He took 4/15 off his ten overs against Uganda, bowled a tidy five overs and hit a not-out 44 against Namibia, and took 4/37 against the might of Canada.
As left-arm wrist spin is, perhaps, the most difficult cricketing art to master, Rippon has chosen a difficult path to take – one hopes he’s given the time and patience to make a good go of it.
1. You were born and grew up in South Africa, representing the Cape Cobras and Western Province in 2011, but you’ve also played for VRA since 2008. What made you decide to play in the Netherlands as well as SA?
Michael Rippon: Club cricket in Holland was very strong with a whole crop of seasoned pros playing in the league. I played in a combined overseas XI team against the Dutch national side in a couple of T20 warm up games in prep for their World Cup fixtures. I decided then that I would like to play for the Netherlands one day.
2. Obviously, you’ve since gone on to play for the Netherlands, and haven’t played for Western Province since 2012. Do you see yourself as a fully-fledged Dutchman, or are you still disappointed that your South African career was cut short?
MR: In 2012 I broke my collarbone and was unavailable for selection for the T20 campaign. I was subsequently signed up by Sussex on a two year contract which inhibited me from playing as a local in South Africa.
3. In 2012 you signed with Sussex, and played in 2014 for the Surrey seconds, but have had limited opportunities in County first teams. Is breaking out of the second team one of your main aims?
MR: Of course it was one of my aims. It was frustrating at times but the Sussex first side had some really big names so it was just a privilege to get some game time and feed off the experience of some of the players.
4. You’ve managed 24 international caps with the Netherlands, but predominantly in limited overs cricket. Do you want to force your way into the four-day side, or do you see yourself as something of a limited overs specialist?
MR: I have played in a couple of the Netherlands first class games but have unfortunately not always been available. I would love to play more first class cricket in the future.
5. There have only been nine specialist Chinaman bowlers ever in international cricket. What made you initially decide to take up the trade?
MR: Being a left hander and with not that many Chinaman bowlers in the world, I decided that I would like to take up the challenge. It’s a very rare art and very challenging but if mastered the rewards could be endless.
6. You were selected in Dutch squad for the World T20 this year, but didn’t play a game. Were you disappointed not to be given a run in that tournament?
MR: Obviously I was disappointed but I accepted the decisions of the team management and understood some players would miss out. I feel privileged to have been part of the squad and gained a great deal from the experience. I was really proud of how Holland showcased their special brand of cricket at the World Cup against top Test playing nations.