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An amazing Christmas week

As promised, a wrap-up of what has been a pretty amazing Christmas week for me. When I last touched base, we were about to kick-off the KFC International T20 series against New Zealand, with it being my first assignment as captain in a Proteas shirt.

Fortunately, the series went the way I was hoping, with a 2-1 victory being just reward for the work put in by a group of hard-working youngsters. I really enjoyed the captaincy and working with coach Russell Domingo – I thought we combined quite nicely together.

The captaincy was a great challenge for me, keeping my mind busy on the field. The first game was a great example of that, with things going even quicker than a normal 20/20 game, but it was also the perfect start in my first game as captain, bowling New Zealand out cheaply and then me finishing not out.

With 20/20 cricket, you have to stay one over ahead of the game with bowling changes and field placings, so that was a big adjustment. I felt that by the third game I was a little bit more comfortable with the pace of the game.

What also helped was me getting runs in two out of the three games. I think it’s important for the captain to contribute, particularly if you’re a new captain with all eyes on you. If you don’t score runs, the chatter starts, along with the talk of how the captaincy is affecting your game. So, it was nice to put that to bed and prove to people that I can actually do both.

It was also a nice squad to captain, with lots of young guys, and not the big names of Kallis and Smith etc. That also helped me ease into the captaincy. I ordinarily would prefer not to pick anyone out, as I thought the squad performed really well as a whole, but I was very impressed with Henry Davids. I thought he was very aggressive, but, more importantly, he took some calculated risks and showed good judgment in shot selection.

Aaron Phangiso also bounced back really well after being a little under the pump in his first game. The best part was seeing that mentally he had it in him to respond to the pressure and still produce a good performance. That really impressed me. I also thought the seam bowling unit of Ryan McLaren, Rory Kleinveldt, Chris Morris, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel was excellent, particularly with their bowling at the ‘death’.

Off the field, Christmas was a bit busy for me flying from Durban to Johannesburg on Christmas Eve and then driving three hours with my missus to her folks’ place. We had the rest of Christmas Eve together, went to church on Christmas morning, had brunch, and then by 11 o’clock I was on the road again, back to Pretoria, packed my stuff and caught a plane to Port Elizabeth. So, not ideal, but I got to see some family and this is the life of a professional cricketer.

Now I’m in Cape Town, enjoying all that the city has to offer. I love it here, with all the different things to do, the vibe and the energy. A couple of us enjoyed a nice dinner at Beluga the other night and I also have some beach time planned to make up for living in a landlocked city! Then there’s also a team dinner, with all the families here, and we’re also doing New Year’s Eve at Graeme’s house, with a ‘neon’ theme to the evening.

Aside from that, I’m obviously looking forward to the test match itself. It’s quite a different experience preparing as a potential ‘starter’ and with it being my first test match at home.

Lastly, just a few words on two off-the-field bits of news. Firstly, I was sad to hear the news of Tony Greig’s passing. He was a real larger-than-life figure and my thoughts go out to his family.

Secondly, the news of Mike Hussey’s retirement. Quite surprising, but a reminder of just how much the constant touring impact on your family life. He now has four kids and it’s clear that he can’t afford to keep spending large amounts of time away from his family. I do think, though, that Hussey’s retirement is a big loss to the Australian team and England are now definitely the favourites for the Ashes.

His absence will be a big blow to the Aussie line-up. Credit to him, though, as he’s gone out on top of his game, in the form of his life. The game will miss him, as it will Tony Greig.

Until next week.

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