Ottniel Baartman can hold his nerve under pressure for Proteas at World Cup

Proteas bowler Ottniel Baartman (left) is congratulated by David Miller after dismissing Sri Lanka’s Pathum Nissanka to claim a wicket with his first ball in T20 International cricket. Photo: AFP

Proteas bowler Ottniel Baartman (left) is congratulated by David Miller after dismissing Sri Lanka’s Pathum Nissanka to claim a wicket with his first ball in T20 International cricket. Photo: AFP

Published Jun 6, 2024


When Ottniel Baartman claimed a wicket with his opening ball in the T20 World Cup – the first South African to achieve this feat – the applause could be heard all the way from the Big Apple down to the home of the biggest bird in the world.

Baartman hails from the tiny Western Cape town of Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo, which is, of course, better known for its long-legged ostriches.

It certainly was a momentous occasion for the 31-year-old seam bowler, who before this year had never even left the shores of South Africa.

But here he was excelling on the international stage at a T20 World Cup, with the Proteas crest on his chest in New York of all places.

Baartman’s journey to the national team has been nothing short of inspirational.

At a time when the spotlight is firmly on Cricket SA and the failure of their development programmes, due to the selection of a solitary black African player in the 15-man World Cup squad, the ascent of a player such as Baartman to the highest level should not simply be passed by.

— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) June 4, 2024

A major criticism of CSA’s development policies is that a large majority of national and provincial black players are coming from traditional former Model C and elite private schools.

Baartman – who actually turned down an opportunity to attend one of these schools due to his mother’s insistence on him focusing on his academics – is a product of Bridgton Secondary School and the South Western Districts talent identification programme.

It is from here that he navigated the domestic treadmill, moving from SWD to the Knights in Bloemfontein, before settling in KwaZulu-Natal at the Dolphins.

Owing to some consistent red-ball performances for the Dolphins, Baartman was initially picked up on the national radar in 2021, when he received a maiden call-up to the Proteas Test squad for the historic tour to Pakistan.

Unfortunately Baartman could not travel with the Proteas to Pakistan after testing positive for Covid-19, and missed out on an international debut.

He has, however, needed to overcome obstacles throughout his career in the hope of eventually discovering the pot of gold at the end of a very long rainbow.

His persistence eventually paid off with the advent of the SA20 competition.

The Sunrisers Eastern Cape surprised friend and foe when they signed up the unheralded Baartman for the first season, before retaining his services for the second season ahead of much bigger ‘brand name’ players.

Sunrisers head coach Adrian Birrell and bowling coach Dale Steyn’s trust has, though, been fully repaid over the past two seasons, with Baartman currently holding the title as the leading wicket taker in the history of the SA20 with 30 scalps.

His ability to close out matches at the death with his famed yorker has played no small part in the Sunrisers winning back-to-back SA20 titles.

It is this essential element of being able to hold his nerve under severe pressure that Baartman brings to the Proteas attack in the US and Caribbean – much in the same mould of former Proteas ‘death’ king and bowling coach Charl Langeveldt, who had great success in the West Indies, especially when he claimed a magical last-over hat-trick in Barbados in 2005.

In the T20 World Cup opener against Sri Lanka at the Nassau County Ground on Monday, Baartman’s death-bowling skills were not required due to the impressive spells up front from the entire Proteas attack.

He ended with excellent figures of 1-9 in four overs, including a maiden and the wicket of Pathum Nissanka (3), as South Africa dismissed their opponents for just 77 in 19.1 overs, with speedster Anrich Nortjé claiming 4-7.

But as the tournament progresses – with Saturday’s clash against the Netherlands at the same New York venue (4.30pm SA time start) next up – and moves across to the more batting-friendly surfaces of the Caribbean islands, coach Rob Walter will be looking at Baartman to execute with precision.

It will no doubt be the biggest examination of Baartman’s career, but he has already shown on numerous occasions that he is not one that seeks the easy road to success.