Tenacious Bulldog now a T20 star

He's an unlikely cricket star - a short, stocky all-rounder with a mediocre first-class record - but Roelof van der Merwe has become a Twenty20 player to be reckoned with since he made his debut for South Africa in March.

He's an unlikely cricket star - a short, stocky all-rounder with a mediocre first-class record - but Roelof van der Merwe has become a Twenty20 player to be reckoned with since he made his debut for South Africa in March.

Van der Merwe's nickname with his Titans franchise is "Bulldog" and he lives up to it with his aggressive attitude as a left-arm slow bowler, hard-hitting right-handed batsman or in the field.

Selected for the South African under-19 team in 2004, his cricket career seemed to hit a dead end and he admits he spent more time partying than working on his game in his first year or so after leaving school in Pretoria.

He started attracting serious attention in the 2007-08 season with his economical bowling and effective pinch-hitting for the Titans in limited-overs cricket, helping the franchise win both the 45-over and 20-over competition.

On his Twenty20 international debut he top-scored with 48 against Australia with a frenzied mixture of wild hits and judicious bunts. Drafted into the South African one-day international side, he topped his side's bowling averages and was the most economical bowler.

Snapped up by the Royal Challengers Bangalore, he became a regular member of the team that reached the final of the Indian Premier League.

He bowls with tight control and his franchise coach Richard Pybus said: "He has an instinct for anticipating what a batsman is going to do."

South African captain Graeme Smith likes Van der Merwe's attitude.

"He really wants to be an active part of the game, which, when you come in as a youngster, is important. If you're a bit sheepish then the game will test you."

No one can accuse Van der Merwe of being sheepish.

When he takes a wicket he roars his delight and shakes his fists above his head like a victorious boxer. And he's unbowed when teased about his batting style.

"It's not how you drive, it's how you arrive," he once said. - Sapa-AFP

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