JOHANNESBURG – At the tender age of 20, Lutho Sipamla already understands the value of hard work.
There are no easy fixes and no shortcuts if he wants to achieve his goals, and there is a willingness to listen and a pragmatism about how he wants to implement that which he’s learned.
While being capped by the Proteas has long been an ambition, he admitted yesterday that his international debut in Sunday’s second T20 against Pakistan came ahead of time. But then so did his role as the spearhead of the Tshwane Spartans in the Mzansi Super League.
It was in that competition that Sipamla first registered with the rest of the country. He bowled superbly, especially for one playing in just his second season of senior cricket. He paid close attention to Spartans coach Mark Boucher, senior bowlers like Rory Kleinveldt and Rob Frylinck, and, of course, to the team’s captain AB de Villiers.
“Mentally (working with De Villiers) was life-changing,” said Sipamla. “He allowed me to control the game from a bowling aspect and I learned a lot. He helped me to become a better bowler and cricketer by giving me the ability to set my own fields, and showing that confidence in me to bowl where I want to bowl.”
David Miller, South Africa’s stand-in skipper for the last two matches of the T20 series, had to show similar confidence in Sipamla last Sunday. Pakistan had smashed 70 runs in the powerplay when Sipamla was brought on to bowl, and Miller needed to regain some measure of control.
“Miller came to me and said I have to go straight here, try to hold up an end, so it was more of that role than a wicket-taking role... I had to adapt to what the team wanted and Miller helped me to stay calm.”
Sipamla’s four overs cost just 23 runs, but there are lots of reasons to like the young fast bowler; besides the obvious skill, there’s his work ethic, an element he hopes players even younger than him will mimic.
“Having someone like me or Lungi (Ngidi) or KG (Rabada) make it to this level gives youngsters a lot of belief. For young players who don’t get to go to Grey High or other big schools like KES, it gives them belief they can get there as well.
“You need to work hard. Those guys don’t just get there overnight, they put the time in, they work hard by themselves; it’s not luck, those guys work so hard to get to where they are.”
Sipamla has been keen to absorb as much as he can from Proteas head coach Ottis Gibson in the short time he’s been with the national squad.
“He and I have been talking about performance, less technical stuff, more about game-plans, field placements, where I can look to get wickets, using the field rather than just trying to hit the stumps, more tactics than technique.”
There is clarity about his future ambitions now that he’s had a taste of the big time.
“I need to bowl a lot, but to go along with that you have to keep fit and strong,” said Sipamla.
Sipamla and the Proteas men's team will play the second half of an international double-header at SuperSport Park today.
The SA Women's team will take on Sri Lanka at 1pm. while South Africa’s men face their Pakistani counterparts from 6pm.@shockerhess