Emotional Lizaad Williams wears heart on sleeve and carries emotional burden on shoulders
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JOHANNESBURG – Perhaps because Proteas caps have been handed out so liberally in recent years – for a variety of reasons – some may feel that it's lost meaning or value even. Not for Lizaad Williams.
Williams, 27, made his international debut at the Wanderers last Saturday. He did so carrying a great deal of emotional weight.
Upon receiving the call from selection convenor Victor Mpitsang last month that he’d be part of the South African side for the series against Pakistan, Williams admits he had mixed emotion. There was the obvious joy at having a boyhood dream fulfilled. But there was despair that he couldn’t share that dream with someone, who’d provided the initial support to help him fulfill it.
“There were mixed emotions,” Williams reflected on Tuesday. “I wanted to share the news with my mom, but she passed away a few months ago.” Lizette Williams died in October 2019, leaving Lizaad and his two siblings.
In April last year, after completing his studies, he made the move north from Cape Town to Pretoria to play for the Titans. “I needed to leave everything behind in Cape Town... when you look back and think about the hard work and sacrifices that you needed to make, to achieve your dream, so all that stuff brings a lot of satisfaction.”
Williams wears his heart on his sleeve, he plays with enthusiasm and aggression, which rubs opponents up the wrong way. It is a passion engendered by growing up in the small west coast town of Vredenburg, situated nearly 150 kilometres north of Cape Town. A similar small town desire to prove himself, fueled one of Williams’ heroes. “Dale Steyn was my favourite bowler and you look at the way he celebrates, it’s emotional...it’s very special taking a wicket at any level you play especially at this level.”
There’s no forgetting where he comes from. “My (bowling) mark on the grass states ‘thank you.’ That goes to the meaning of being thankful for every opportunity that I get to play, even if it's club cricket, whatever level, I’m just grateful to be playing cricket. There’s a lot of emotion going into it, not that I’m planning to be aggressive, it’s just the emotions coming out of me.”
Williams has been a consistent performer for the Titans across all formats, which helped to earn his call up to the national side. Skiddy and able to get the ball to swing when conditions allow, he rushes batsmen.
“When coach Boucher told me I’d start, you realise the dream is a reality, I slept poorly, I was awake at four in the morning, I couldn’t sleep anymore. The game was playing in my mind, it’s your debut, you want it to go well, you are analysing a lot of things, the older players did say that it happens to everyone in their debut, that it’s the norm.
“Once I realised my dream is a reality, then my focus shifted to the next phase where you want to contribute to the success of the team. You are part of a special bunch of cricketers in South Africa. You’re going to represent the guys that came before you and those that are coming after you, it’s a big responsibility that you have towards the system and the pipeline of the players coming through.”
His first taste of international cricket didn’t go as planned, with South Africa losing on Saturday, and Williams in the unfortunate position of conceding the runs which gave Pakistan the win.
“In the first game I was caught up in the end result of the ball I wanted to deliver,” said Williams, who did manage to take his first international wicket when he bowled Faheem Ashraf in the last over of that match.
“But on Monday (in the second T20 International) I was much clearer in terms of executing.” He picked up three wickets, helping to restrict Pakistan to just 140/9, with South Africa chasing down the required runs with 36 balls to spare.
“I’m still in the phase now, where I’m trying to figure out the intensity of international cricket, strengths and weaknesses of batsmen. I’m still in my learning phase, even though you must learn each game. I’m like a toddler going into primary school. You face different opponents each series, I’m just trying to observe everything and take it in.”
The third T20 International will be played at Williams’ home ground, SuperSport Park, on Wednesday.