JOHANNESBURG – Wihan Lubbe is lost for words when he’s asked how excited he is to share a dressing room with some of cricket’s biggest stars – such as Kevin Pietersen. “It hasn’t really sunk in to be honest,” he says.
Although the campus student from North West University has known for a few weeks now that he’s been selected to play for the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars in South Africa’s T20 Global League, Lubbe still struggles to wrap his head around the life-changing news.
“As a young kid you dream about moments like these, and so for it to actually happen is unbelievable.”
Lubbe, the captain of his varsity cricket team, was one of three North West University students who were selected to play for various teams in the T20 Global League next year.
The tournament was set to start in a week’s time. But, owing to complications, the organisers have been forced to postpone it to next November.
Lubbe will share a dressing room with the likes of Pietersen, Proteas’ spin bowler Imran Tahir and experienced Pakistani players like Junaid Khan and Anwar Ali. “Pietersen hits it quite long and straight, so I’d like to feed a lot off him.
“And then facing Tahir in the nets – I’m looking forward to that quite a lot. I don’t think you can face much better than him when it comes to spinners.
“More than anything, I’m relishing learning from the greats of the game. Every one brings a different dimension and different thinking to the game so hearing what their theories are can only benefit me.”
Lubbe was selected to play for the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars following a string of fine performances with his university team over the past year.
Most recently, he led the university to victory at the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals, where they were named the best university team in the world.
While Lubbe admits he is “disappointed” that the tournament has been postponed, he relishes the chance to show his talent on the world stage.
“The great thing is that I get to push harder and work for another couple of months to get myself better prepared for the tournament.”
Lubbe knows that competing globally can be an important stepping stone. “There are so many good university and amateur cricketers that are just waiting for an opportunity.
“The T20 Global League will grant them that opportunity. If you manage to put in a few good performances, you can put yourself on the map and you never know what can happen after that.
“It’s an opportunity for young players, not only me, but for a whole heap of other players, to throw their names into the hat."
Lubbe is also looking forward to working with former Proteas’ wicket-keeper Mark Boucher, who has been named as the head coach of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars.
“I’ve heard very good things about him from a few of my mates who have worked closely with Boucher. They all speak very highly of him. I think he’ll have his own way of developing me and I certainly look forward to learning from him.”
But working with Pietersen is what he looks forward to the most.
“Facing a few of the sub-continent bowlers will be really good too. Yasir Shah (of Pakistan) has been doing really well all over the world, so facing a player like him and seeing what he has to offer is something to which I really I look forward.”
In the past two years, Lubbe has risen through the cricket ranks and was recently handed a contract with the Gauteng-based Highveld Lions.
He credits his success in the cricketing world to keeping it simple and having fun with the bat and ball.
“I think one of the most important things is to still have fun. Sometimes when people are trying to become professional cricketers or sportsmen, they put too much pressure on themselves and forget to have fun.
“It’s still a sport that we are privileged enough to play so having fun ultimately improves your performance anyway. I try and have as much fun as I can.
“I think that’s when I play at my best. When I put pressure on myself, that is normally when my cricket takes a bit of a dip.”