In October last year Dwaine Pretorius didn’t even have a call-up to the Proteas on his list of goals for the season. Seven months later, he’s been included in the squad for the World Cup.
“I’m still pinching myself,” he said on Friday.
The 30-year-old Pretorius earned his international debut against Ireland at the start of the 2016 season, and while never a fixture in the national side, he did enough to earn a spot in the group that went to the Champions Trophy in England the following year. Having played 12 ODIs, he then didn’t got a look-in thereafter, with Ottis Gibson more interested in the burgeoning talents of Wiaan Mulder.
Mulder needed ankle surgery just before the Proteas toured Australia last October, and Pretorius, who’d not shown much form domestically, suddenly got called up. He was shocked then and remains shocked now.
“I had been out of the team for a year. In Australia I just wanted to make the best of the opportunity I got there. From then it was about working hard and I was very fortunate to get picked thereafter, and I was very fortunate that I was the one that performed well when I needed to,” said Pretorius.
It was Pretorius’ control with the ball, that earned ticks from the selectors. And when given the chance to bat higher up the order in the final T20 against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers in March, he hit 77 not out off 42 balls - it was that performance which virtually sealed his spot.
“Personally that innings was very helpful. It was pleasing to score my second 50 (for the Proteas) and even though it was a T20 game, the situation was like you could find yourself in in a 50 over game... I gained a lot of confidence.”
With Mulder failing to live up to Gibson’s expectations and Pretorius’s close friend Morris, never winning the national coach and captain to his side, Pretorius was viewed as the preferred seam bowling all-rounder alongside Andile Phehlukwayo.
“Morry and I can tell you a lot of stories about our time together. He took me under his wing, when I joined the Lions, we were roommates for the first few seasons when he was still here. At that stage he was playing some very good cricket and then he left for the Titans and if he hadn’t done that I may not have gotten a spot in the Lions team. I got that starting spot here, started doing well and both of us got our opportunities for the Proteas,” Pretorius explained.
“I do feel for him, he’s a really good mate of mine, but in that time before the Australian tour, I wasn’t trying to compete against anyone else, it was about competing against myself. I was a best-man at his wedding, and as a friend I really feel sorry for him. However as a sportsman, I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”
Pretorius, as so many South Africans has vivid memories of the Proteas’ previous failures at the World Cup. He hopes to draw inspiration from Lance Klusener’s performances in 1999, but also recall the tearful exits in 2003 and 2015. “ The way Lance Klusener played in that tournament - every all-rounder wants to try and emulate that, he was on fire. Hopefully Andile and I can emulate that and try and get our team in the final.”@shockerhess