Gauteng Lions wicketkeeper Ryan Rickelton is thrilled to have received his first Proteas Test call-up as the national squad prepares for their massive series against India which gets under way next weekend.
The 25-year-old player is most likely the third-choice keeper in the side behind Quinton de Kock and Kyle Verreynne and will be aiming to take as much as he can from being a part of the set-up for the first time.
“I was surprised. I was actually preparing for a bit of a December holiday when I got the call,” Rickelton admitted.
“I am obviously excited to just to be a part of this series against the world’s best team, regardless of whether I get a game or not. It is special just to be a part of the whole set-up of a Test series, and a really big one at that.
“So I am looking forward to the opportunity to spend time with some of the more experienced players and try to get in with them as soon as I can.”
The Proteas players were preparing in separate bubbles until earlier this week when they came together in Pretoria, and they were set to play a squad match to get themselves up to speed and ready for the Indian challenge.
Rickelton will thus have an immediate chance to impress and will be looking to lay down an early marker in the inter-squad game.
“I think we are playing a two- or three-day game as soon as we get in (the bubble) so I am hoping to get stuck in there. I would love to get some runs in that warm-up game and kind of put a stake in the ground for myself,” said Rickelton.
“But I also just want to train really well, hit the ball as best I can and catch as best I can to kind of let everyone know I am here. So I am aiming to make sure I am as best prepared as I can be so I am ready if there is a chance to get on the field.”
It is no surprise that Rickelton was included in the Test squad after enjoying some fantastic form over the past two years, while he also received his maiden ODI call-up for the recently suspended Netherlands series.
He has put in some big innings in his most recent games for the SA A team against Zimbabwe and the Lions in the domestic four-day series.
“My last 10 innings in red ball-cricket have been really good both for the Lions and SA A side, so I am quite confident within my game there,” said Rickelton.
“I am just a little bit short of game time now since I haven’t play in the last couple of weeks, having missed those last four-day games and then the Netherlands series being postponed, so that is why this two-day game is important for me.”
Rickelton could be in the mix for selection a lot sooner than expected with reports suggesting that first choice keeper De Kock will be unavailable for the second and third Tests with his wife expecting their first child.
This will see Rickelton and Verreynne go head-to-head for the gloves, with Verreynne slightly ahead having played two Tests for the Proteas as well as nine ODIs.
But Rickelton’s focus remains on just taking as much as he can from the experience, which will also include him interacting with some of the best players in the world in the Indian team.
“Kyle is phenomenal so it will take a lot for me to somehow get ahead of him, but all I can do is just put my stake in the ground and keep competing and making sure I am up for it,” said Rickelton.
“They (India) are the best team in the world for a reason, and to get just half an opportunity to chat to them will be massive. To try understand them, what they think about and how they go about the game, I am sure there are a lot of things I can pick off them, so I am looking forward to that opportunity.”
Rickelton is also really looking forward to the opportunity of working with coach Mark Boucher, who as a former Proteas wicketkeeper will have plenty to impart on his young apprentices.
“I am dreading it but it definitely will be a massive boost to my game. During the Netherlands series he (Boucher) took Kyle and I for a session and murdered us, so I think between the two of us we have our work cut out for us,” said Rickelton.
“He’s not going to take it easy on us, but I am really looking forward to the opportunity to train with him. I love training and learning from the best, and who better is there to learn from?
“So I am going to see if I can drag him off more often than not every day, just to see if I can spend 20 minutes with him, and I am sure he will make me a better keeper in no time.”