Blacksmith sharpens Twenty20 tools
Tyron Henderson is known in cricketing circles as ‘The Blacksmith’ - but such is the barbarity and destructiveness of his hitting that ‘The Butcher’ might be a more appropriate nickname.
An imposing 34-year-old all-rounder from Durban, Henderson seized last year’s finals day by the scruff of the neck with his belligerent strokeplay and canny medium-pacers for Middlesex.
And for those keen to pigeonhole him as an over-the-hill Kolpak around to earn a quick buck, Henderson has the greatest comeback of all.
His 1,074 runs and 75 wickets rank him the most successful player in the short history of Twenty20 cricket.
“It’s hard to think of a better striker of a ball in the world game,” said Middlesex director of cricket Angus Fraser. “We’ve been given just a snapshot as to why he’s so highly-rated in Twenty20 cricket.
“I suppose South Africa have missed out with Tyron. He was overlooked by them before he rose to fame as a Twenty20 player.
“If you factor in his bowling you’ve got a real indication of why Rajasthan Royals paid US$650,000 for him.”
Henderson’s brutal 59 from 22 balls at the Rose Bowl turned the Twenty20 Cup semi-final with Durham into a cakewalk, before he contributed 43 to help beat Kent in the final - ending Middlesex’s 15-year wait for a major trophy.
But with Henderson, Owais Shah and Murali Kartik starting the season in the Indian Premier League, and Ed Joyce and Dirk Nannes moving elsewhere in the close-season, Middlesex have been much-changed from the side that triumphed in Southampton.
Even their one-day name has changed - gone is their unpopular ‘Crusaders’ tagline, replaced, perhaps inevitably for a team who play in pink, with ‘Panthers’.
Fortunately for Fraser and captain Shaun Udal, the county can call upon a crop of promising young England-qualified players, such as Billy Godleman, Eoin Morgan, Dawid Malan and Steven Finn. Henderson and Kartik are also due to return in time for Twenty20.
Fraser, appointed with the intention of exploiting London’s pool of young cricketers, admits this season’s Panthers will look to their young pups.
“If you take Andrew Strauss and Owais Shah out of the batting it looks a bit inexperienced,” he says.
“We don’t anticipate seeing a lot of those two this summer. And that’s fine - it’s a great honour for the club to have international cricketers.
“But there are some exciting young talents there. The role of county clubs is first and foremost, to win trophies, but also to produce England cricketers and that’s something I’m passionate about. We’ll see how they go.”
English Twenty20 audiences will not have the chance to see the world's new batting star Phillip Hughes, who has made such a stunning impression in his early-season spell with Middlesex. He has returned to Australia for a pre-Ashes camp.
Fraser remains unapologetic about the controversial signing: “My views haven’t changed. I understand what some people think about it but I just don’t agree with them. It’s jingoistic and Ashes-centric.
“International sport is about the best teams playing the best teams. If England play Argentina at Wembley, do we want Lionel Messi to play? Of course we do. You want to watch Messi play well, but see England win. It’s the same with cricket.”
The tag of English Twenty20 champions opened up exciting winter escapes for the club in the Stanford Super Series and the Twenty20 Champions League.
But November’s terror attacks in Mumbai forced the Champions League to be rescheduled for October 2009, foregoing Middlesex’s involvement and lucrative US$250,000 participation fees.
“We were unfortunate, the prisoner of events outside of our control,” said Fraser. “There was a cost incurred but it was squared up somewhere else. We could have earned considerable amounts of money, but now we can’t.
“The Champions League would have been a bonus, but there’s nothing we can do about it, apart from winning the trophy and getting back in again.”