Durban – Khaya Zondo feels he’s ready for the international stage – again.
He was ready in 2015 when first picked for the Proteas One-Day squad in India. He, infamously, didn’t play a game in that series. He was ready again when another chance came his way three years later, the opposition once more, India, this time at home. Zondo made 54 in one match. He played a couple of ODI matches against Zimbabwe later in 2018, but wasn’t in the frame for the World Cup the next year.
Now, he’s been picked again. So is he better prepared this time, than those previous occasions? “Every time I’ve been selected I was ready. I don’t think they pick a player who they don’t think is ready or up for the challenge. I think I am ready, I think I’ve always been ready,” Zondo said on Wednesday.
He was included in the 16-man Proteas squad for the three match ODI series against the Netherlands, which will be played later this month. It’s the first time he’s been called up to the national squad in three years.
A lot has happened in between, most notably the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings, where Zondo gave a forthright account of his omission from the final ODI in that 2015 series in India. Linda Zondi, then chairman of selectors, Hussein Manack, who sat on the panel at the time and the Proteas’ team manager on that tour, Dr. Mohammed Moosajee, all testified about the incident.
As did others including, Aaron Phangiso. It was a moment that has had a profound effect on South African cricket and it will no doubt feature prominently when the transformation ombud, Adv. Dumisa Ntsebeza publishes the SJN’s final report.
Zondo has said his piece on that matter. He’d rather the focus be on his call up now, and the form, which motivated the current panel of selectors to recall him.
“I don’t think you can say it was expected. I’m happy. It’s nice to be recognised for performances,” said Zondo.
He’s been one of the best performing batters in the country at the start of the 2021/22 season. He produced some crucial innings’ as the KwaZulu Natal Dolphins finished runners-up in the T20 Knock Out competition last month.
“I had a relatively good feeling last year, and I think it was about building on the things I did last year. I want to be a match winner. Every time I perform I want to put my team in a match winning position, or to be the one that wins the game for my team.”
His maiden first class double hundred in the opening round of the Four-Day series, was one such performance. The Dolphins were in trouble and he turned that problematic position, into what would have been a match-winning one, had rain not washed out the last day’s play in Cape Town.
“It looks like I’m playing more freely, I think mentally I am free. I always talk to my coaches to just make sure I am playing freely. I produce my best when I’m not worried about too many things, not worried about making mistakes. I’m just focussing on the ball, looking to put the team in a good position or win the game if we are chasing. I just read the game and the game will tell me what I need to do to achieve a win.”
Zondo added that he has been aided by the fact that as a senior player, he is providing tips to the younger Dolphins players, which have proved to be beneficial for him as well. “In helping the younger guys, I also help myself in the sense that in giving them advice it feels like I am reminding myself constantly about some of the things I need to keep doing,” said Zondo.
“If I’m batting with one of the younger guys in the nets I might be telling them something that I know as a senior player that can make them successful, but it’s things that I know that I need to continue to do. I can’t tell them to do something and then I don’t necessarily do it. That helps to keep me on the money.”
Now that he’s back in the national side, the next goal is to establish himself at the highest level. “I want to play all formats for the national team, be a regular in the starting XI and a regular in the squad. I’d love to go to a World Cup. It’s about taking one step at a time.”
“If I get a crack in the starting XI, it’s then about performing and winning games, something I do at the Dolphins, and something I’d like to replicate at the national level. One of the biggest goals is to grow, consistently, at training, in games...then the rest takes care of itself,” said Zondo.
SA squad for series vs Netherlands:
Keshav Maharaj (capt), Daryn Dupavillon, Zubayr Hamza, Reeza Hendricks, Sisanda Magala, Janneman Malan, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Wayne Parnell, Ryan Rickelton, Tabraiz Shamsi, Kyle Verreynne, Lizaad Williams, Khaya Zondo.
Schedule (all start times 10am)
Nov 26 - 1st ODI, Centurion
Nov 28 - 2nd ODI, Centurion
Dec 1 - 3rd ODI, Wanderers