A fines meeting to remember
I’ve just ended a rather relaxing day in Perth, just 24 hours after yet another amazing day in my cricket career. My career has been going for about eight years, but my test career is just two matches old and I couldn’t have wished for a more satisfying end to my first series – a member of the world’s top-ranked test team, which has just beaten Australia at home. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Just looking back at the celebrations - we gathered in the Perth changeroom and had a very casual and fun fines meeting, led by fitness coach Rob Walter. It was great to have a bit of light-hearted fun after the intensity of the test match, and we were soon joined by the Australian team, who bore the brunt of the fines master! It was nice to sit with the Australian guys and go over the series with them. The guys I chatted to all admitted that they had their chances, but didn’t take them, particularly in the Adelaide test. They were with us for about an hour, before they headed off to a dinner at Adam Gilchrist’s place.
It was also amazing being there with Ricky Ponting, one of my heroes growing up. He was incredibly gracious, thanking all of us and Graeme for the guard of honour gesture. I found the whole experience quite surreal as I’ve spent most of my life watching Ricky, and to be there at the end with him was quite special. When I got to chat to him, he congratulated me on the start to my test career, before wishing me well and saying that he thought it would go well for me. That really meant a lot from a legend of the game. I actually had goosebumps when we were standing on the field clapping him in for his final innings. It was quite a weird feeling, as here was a guy that we clearly wanted to get out, yet we were standing there appreciating one of the greats of the game. It was a great moment, though.
What was quite interesting is that the Australian guys weren’t used to the fines meeting format, as it’s not something they do after a game. It looked like they enjoyed it, though, and it was just a bit of fun for both sides, who had spent the past few weeks going hard at each other.
I’ve now had the chance to reflect on an amazing few weeks for me, personally. To be honest, it still doesn’t feel real for me. I still think of myself as someone who has the time to work towards that test opportunity, but that’s obviously not the case anymore. It probably hasn’t sunk in yet, as it doesn’t feel like I’ve played two test matches already. But, I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my test career and I’m very grateful for that.
In saying that, I know it’s not going to be easy for me and I can’t just pitch up and expect to score runs. I’ve got to keep working hard, as I’ve done for the past few years. I’ve taken my opportunity, but now I’ve got to make it count, and I want to be one of those guys who plays for South Africa in all three forms of the game, on a consistent basis. The key now is to ensure that my game grows and I become a better player.
From a team perspective, what has stood out for me has been the guts and character shown by the guys throughout this series. It’s probably a South African thing, but we just never back down. There’s been a couple of occasions this year, against both England and Australia, where we have been under the pump, but we’ve just kept fighting.
I thought about it when I saw the Australian guys playing the shots they played on the final day in Perth. We were in a similar position in Adelaide, but we buckled down and blocked out the day. They were under pressure, but I personally feel they took the easy option and played the shots they did. For my teammates, somewhere inside they find something that keeps them fighting, and there’s absolutely no question about the character of this side. That, for me, has been the key to our success.
Now I’m off to Melbourne to play in the opening game of the Big Bash League for the Melbourne Renegades. It’s a once-off opportunity that I’m looking forward to. But, I also can’t wait to get home and see my family.
It’s been an amazing few weeks.