T20 World Cup taste switches Baartman’s big-dreams’ bulb on

PROTEAS bowler Ottniel Baartman celebrates after dismissing Netherlands’ Sybrand Engelbrecht during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2024. | AFP

PROTEAS bowler Ottniel Baartman celebrates after dismissing Netherlands’ Sybrand Engelbrecht during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2024. | AFP

Published Jul 6, 2024


WE have seen it unfold elsewhere in the world, but not here at home in South Africa, where players who are essentially unknown in international cricket shoot onto the big stage straight from a franchise T20 tournament.

Perhaps no other country has produced such players more than India, given the magnitude of the Indian Premier League. From it came the likes of Rishabh Pant and Yashasvi Jaiswal to name a few.

For the first time, South Africa has done the same with Ottneil Baartman being the first to give Proteas selectors no choice but to include him after two impressive SA20 seasons with back-to-back champions, the Sunrisers Eastern Cape.

For the Oudtshoorn-born medium pacer, the journey to the Proteas demanded patience. The 31-year-old toiled for many years on the domestic circuit to be what he is now – a World Cup finalist.

From Oudtshoorn to Kimberley, Kimberley to the Free State before ending up in Durban – the road has been long for Baartman who was a key player for South Africa in the recently concluded T20 World Cup.

“You have to do the hard yards,” Baartman told the media upon arriving in South Africa from the World Cup final in Barbados.

“It’s a thing you dream about to play for the Proteas. Looking back, I never thought I would be here being in a World Cup squad. The journey was for me to play domestic cricket and hopefully get a shout in South African cricket.

“When I got the call, it was pretty exciting. The SA20 was a big part of that because we played against world-class international players. That actually puts you in a different mindset because you have to be at your best the whole time.”

Despite the long journey, Baartman understands that he’s only had a taste and that there is more out there. There are the lucrative franchise T20 leagues around the world and the other formats for the Proteas available for him should he prove himself worthy.

The 31-year-old says he wants to put in good performances for his Durban-based Dolphins side with hopes of attracting interest from all over the world.

“I don’t know the future that’s lying ahead. For me it’s to focus on the now, what I can control now and that’s probably to put in good performances in my domestic team and hopefully, you get another shout somewhere around the world or the Proteas. But for me, the biggest thing is to put in good performances for my domestic team.”

Like the other players who donned the green and gold in this World Cup, Baartman returned home with a heavy heart having missed out on the title by seven runs.

Despite the hurt and disappointment, Baartman is proud that he was part of the first generation to reach a World Cup final for South Africa.

“It was disappointing to lose the final. The guys were devastated,” he said.

“Apart from that, the way the guys played throughout the World Cup was exceptional. We managed to win by small margins in every game and that was exceptional to see. We played as a collective, won as a collective and lost as a collective. Life moves on, cricket moves on and we look forward to the next chapter.”