What odds might you have got at the start of the summer on Kent run-machine Martin van Jaarsveld going the whole County Championship campaign without scoring a century, let alone reaching 1,000 first-class runs?
In his five previous seasons with Kent, since joining from Northamptonshire, reaching a four-figure aggregate has been a foregone conclusion for the softly-spoken South African. But 2011 has proved to be something of an annus horribilis for the 37-year-old right-hander.
From his 14 Championship starts, Van Jaarsveld has mustered only 755 runs at an average of 30.20 with a meagre top score of 95. To make matters worse, a groin injury picked up during the three-day win over Essex last week may mean van Jaarsveld’s season has already run its full course.
“I’ll put my hand up and say yes, it’s been a struggle,” admitted the winner of nine South Africa Test caps. “My poor form has been eating me up if I’m honest, but I have to try to take a more philosophical view. The wickets have been tough and haven’t really helped and the Tiflex ball has simply added to the problems.
“I know a lot has been made of the ball we use in Division Two, but if you speak to a lot of top-order batters, as I do, then they’ll all tell you it’s been a hard season. It’s certainly been the hardest since I first started playing county cricket and the exclusion of the heavy roller has only exacerbated things.
“My form was a factor in me giving up the vice-captaincy because as a leader you want to inspire from the front through your performances. But I felt I was battling so much with my own game that I just needed to knuckle down on that and focus on scoring runs, rather than have the potential distraction of leadership.”
With only one season to run on his three-year deal at St Lawrence, Van Jaarsveld is understandably already looking to the future and trying to work out the best move for him, his wife Jill, and their young family.
“I feel pretty fit generally and have value to add to a side, but I am at the twilight stage of my playing career and it’s about time I started looking at other avenues,” he added.
“By no means am I going to take up any sort of coaching position at this stage, it’s just a matter of preparing myself and looking around for something I fancy doing.
“As for the immediate future, I’ve another year on my contract with Kent and am looking forward to next summer. I’m not sure what the future really holds, but one thing I can say is that the family and I are really happy here.
“The downside this season has been the pitches here at home. Batting at Canterbury has been really tough, and I think if you asked all the players we’d like to see some better surfaces for next year.
“I’m not pointing fingers, because it’s been just as hard for the younger lads in the side to score runs as it has been for me, but I certainly don’t want to finish my career like this and play another summer when every day is a struggle to score runs.”
*Kent, meanwhile, besides announcing the signing for next season of Nottinghamshire fast bowler Charlie Shreck, have confirmed that 21-year-old batsman Sam Northeast has extended his current contract with the club, reportedly with a one-year deal.