CAPE TOWN – The life of a semi-pro cricketer has the potential to be very depressing. It is almost like the life of an aspiring actor who doubles up as an usher at the theatre every evening.
A performance alongside the stars of the show is within touching distance, but in reality it is a world away. That is how the Cape Cobras opening batsman Pieter Malan would have felt for the better part of a decade.
Yet back in 2008 it would have all been so different for Malan. The former Waterkloof High school prodigy had the world at his feet after being part of the South Africa Under-19 team’s progression to the ICC U19 World Cup final. In fact, Malan even dismissed current Indian captain Virat Kohli in the showpiece match in Kuala Lumpur.
But instead of progressing through the ranks into the franchise system, he found himself stuck in the humdrum of provincial cricket.
Not even a move from his native Northerns down to Cape Town could change his situation. But instead of moping around, Malan simply got down to the business of scoring runs. It was just last season that Malan blew away all comers as he piled on 1 069 runs at the hugely-impressive average of 118.77 for Western Province in the 3-Day Cup.
Lesser individuals would have thrown in the towel already, especially as he was no longer a teenager with the demands of “real life” starting to increase.
“It came pretty close a year or so ago,” Malan, 28, said. “I was doing pretty well, but I still wasn’t getting ahead and then someone at Durbanville Cricket Club actually offered me a job in sales.
“We seriously considered it because you get to a point where you think maybe it is just not meant to be. There have been some dark times through those years. But I am glad that I stuck it out and I am really enjoying it at the moment. I can’t control selection. All I can control is how hard I work. How I prepare for games which gives me the best opportunity to score runs. I have always only focused on my own controllable and hopefully everything works out from there.”
The wait has certainly been worth it with Malan reaping the rewards of honing his game for so long. With the Cobras experiencing a renaissance of sorts under new coach Ashwell Prince, the former Proteas batsman started the 2017-18 season on a clean slate with all the players in the region.
After watching Malan “for only 20 minutes in pre-season”, Prince immediately liked what he saw and gave the right-hander something he had craved for so long: an opportunity!
It was all that he needed with Malan currently topping the One-Day Cup run-scoring charts with 517 runs. Coupled with his 446 runs during the first half of the Sunfoil Series, it is clear that Malan has relished the chance to display his talent on a higher stage.
“You wait so long for something and then when you actually get it, you just don’t want to let up. So, in a way I feel that it has benefited me,” Malan said. “It (the wait) was frustrating but it made me a better cricketer and a better person. When you have to work for stuff, you really appreciate when it goes well. Then you want to extend it for as long as possible. I am happy that it has worked out for me.”
Malan will be hoping to continue his form, with the One-Day Cup fast approaching the business end of the competition. The Cobras face the Warriors in a must-win match on Friday if they wish to host a semi-final.