Interview of Cricket Fans (ICF) – 6

If there is one country, apart from India, which I genuinely love and respect more than any other country, then it has to be South Africa. From growing up watching it’s wildlife documentaries on Discovery Channel to following the sport of cricket, there is something special about this part of the world. I have been fortunate enough to get in touch with one of the fans who resides from the capital city of South Africa, Cape Town, to share a few words on his journey of becoming a fan of this sport.

Thank you for your participation in this interview, I would like to start off by knowing your early memories of watching Cricket, how did you fall in love with this sport?

I honestly cannot remember a time when I did not love the game of cricket. I played cricket as a child often with neighbours in the street. It would seem like a cliché to say that cricket is in my blood especially as an Indian but that truly is the case. My earliest memory of watching live cricket would involve the 1999 semi-final loss to Australia. Fortunately, at the time I was too young to comprehend the level of grief many South African cricket fans experienced at the time. My love of cricket grew exponentially after meeting Makhaya Ntini in my hometown in the Eastern Cape. I was starstruck. The one thing that I was taken aback by, even at a young age was the level of humility he exuberated despite his level of fame. I would often try to replicate his unique bowling action. We would later go on to become family friends. I can honestly say he is a wonderful human being.

Have you watched any of the games live in a stadium? If yes, which venue and which match was going on at that time?

I grew up in a small town in the Eastern Cape called King Williams Town. Live cricket was a rarity however we did get the odd cricket match at Buffalo stadium in East London. I remember watching the likes of Monde Zondeki in the 2003 Cricket World Cup when the proteas played against Canada. I also had the privilege of watching England play against Australia at St Georges Park. That match was truly a dream come true. After all these years I still have the ticket stub from the game. As a Capetonian resident now, the one game I look forward to every year is the New Years Test. I got to experience the New Years Test from a box suite thanks to @PoppingCreaseSA for which I will always be grateful.

What is it that you love the most about South African Cricket, despite of having its fair share of problems in the past?

The one thing I love most about South African cricket is how passionate South African cricket fans are. Despite the pain of cricket world cup exits and having to navigate politics, South African cricket fans have always been in full voice supporting our Protea men and women. I love how supportive we are of our Protea ladies especially considering the challenges women have to face in a world rife with misogyny and sexism. We hold them in high regard. Our cricketing structures may not be at their best and with new challenges presented to Cricket South Africa lately I still know we will be here supporting the boys.

Pitches in South Africa generally tend to seam and bounce more compared to swing, Do you think it is the toughest place to bat on, specially in today’s times?

I think South Africa is most certainly one of the most challenging places to bat in terms of pace bowling. Asian teams struggled in the past with the extra bounce but we’ve seen a massive improvement on their part in recent times. Sri Lanka winning a series not so long ago springs to mind. I personally think that batting struggles are subjective to a teams collective strengths and weaknesses. If we look at the Proteas at the moment, I would say that the sub continent would be their most challenging conditions based on their current vulnerability to spin bowling. South Africa is definitely a challenging place to bat but if teams work on the challenges presented, they can succeed like Australia and England have shown. India have also had success in South Africa despite not having won a series as yet. Sri Lanka whitewashed us recently which goes to show that it is possible to overcome South African conditions. 

South Africa has produced one of the world’s finest all-rounder in the form of Jacques Kallis. Few words you would like to share on him?

J Kallis is arguably one of the greatest cricketers the world has seen and it’s an incredible honour as a South African to say so. We often never appreciate what we have until it is gone and we’ve missed the balance Kallis brought to the team. Years later and we’re still trying to find the perfect balance in his absence. My favorite Kallis innings is his maiden double century in Test cricket. It evaded him for so long that the joy he showed upon reaching the milestone was tangible.

How tough was it to digest the retirement of AB de Villiers just a year prior to the World Cup 2019?

It was a shock. I don’t think many saw it coming. AB mentioned how fresh he was and hungry prior to the India series. He was in the form of his life playing a crucial role in our series wins against both India and Australia. Our top 6 were highly dependent on him, AB and Quinton and I knew that we had a slim chance in the 2019 CWC without him. As it showed, “slim” was actually too kind an adjective. AB de Villiers was an incredible player for South Africa. His records speak for itself. One always felt he could change a game and turn any match around. That kind of X factor is a rarity. Despite the Proteas underwhelming performances in World Cups, AB still boasts a very impressive ICC record most notably his 2015 CWC performances. Its truly an injustice that we didn’t capitalize on his form and go on to win the world cup. Despite the off field drama surrounding him, it takes nothing away from his contribution towards our success over the years especially in Test cricket.

Your thoughts on arguably one of the greatest ODI matches of all time – the 438 game?

The 438 game was an emotional roller coaster. I cant explain the level of tension. I was extremely despondent after the first innings. It was humiliating but thankfully it was short lived. Winning a match like that is a once in a lifetime experience. Probably the closest feeling to winning a world cup but in all honesty if I could trade it for a world cup, I would in a heartbeat. 

South Africa have found success in Australia and Australia have found success in South Africa (in Tests) specially in the past 15 years whenever they have played each other, few words on this rivalry?

My love of Test cricket only began in 2007. I was oblivious to Australia’s record of dominance over South Africa at home and in South Africa until it became a focal point in the build up to the 2008/09 Tour to Australia where we won our first Series down under. In terms of rivalry, there’s nothing more exciting as a South African than watching the Proteas take on Australia. The tension and aggression is tangible. I think so much credit has to go to Graeme Smith for building an environment in which our Test cricket could thrive. He led by example. There was a sense of belief that he instilled in our squad that we could go on and dominate sides away from home and that’s what we did for a long period of time. Ask any Test loving fan, there’s not much that comes close to the feeling of winning a test match away from home, even less that comes close to winning a Test series away from home. Since 2008 we’ve gone on to win multiple series against the aussies.  My favorite is our maiden Test series win against them at home in 2018. It was the most heated battle I’ve ever watched. I think the way in which we turned the series around after having lost the first game is something I’m most proud of.

Do you see South Africa lifting a Cricket World Cup in the next 10 years?

In all honesty, I don’t see the Proteas lifting a world cup in the next 5 years. In 10 years? Possibly if our domestic issues are sorted out. Sadly theres a lot of issues that our cricket board face. There are many factors affecting cricket in SA from economic degradation to politics. I will always remain hopeful that one day we will lift a world cup trophy.

Let’s finish off this interview with your Dream 11, you can choose a player from any era.

My favorite Test XI modern era ( highly bias not based on stats necessarily 😉
1: Mathew Hayden
2: Virender Sehwag
3: Amla
4: Steve Smith
5: Ab de Villiers
6: J Kallis
7: Quinton de Kock
8: Pat Cummins
9: Nathan Lyon
10: Bumrah
11: Dale Steyn

I followed Bilal on Twitter in 2018 when India toured South Africa and since then I have been following him and his tweets. One of the best part I like about him, apart from his cricketing views, is the kind of person he is. He has always been vocal about multiple issues that the world is facing like mental health, gender inequality, racism etc. He is one of the kindest person I have interacted with. Last year, I was facing certain issues and when I spoke to him on DMs regarding this, he immediately came to my aid. I seriously wish South Africa goes on to win a World Cup, at least in 2027 if not 2023 as Bilal mentioned in the interview. And I also wish Bilal all the success in his life in the future. You guys go and follow him on Twitter, and once you have done that you can then also follow me – @bhavsarJ2_0 . THANK YOU!

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