Johannesburg - On Thursday April 18, 2019, Reeza Hendricks scored 77 off 61 balls for the Highveld Lions in a T20 match. It was an innings packed with typically elegant strokeplay. It was also an innings played in a fog of personal disappointment.
Hours earlier South Africa’s squad for the 2019 World Cup was announced – and Hendricks wasn’t in it.
“I scored runs in that game, maybe it was a case of getting rid of the frustration,” Hendricks recalled.
Days later, the last thing he wanted to do was pick up a bat, strap on pads, gloves or lace up his boots. “I was in a dark place after not being selected,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks wears a boyish smile, is soft-spoken, outwardly cool and laidback, but all of that masks a determined character. Missing out on selection for the Proteas squad that went to the 2019 World Cup hurt immensely.
“It was something that I had to deal with, but to be honest, it took some time. It wasn’t just a matter of ‘Oh, move on and get over it in a couple of days,’” he said. “A couple of games after (the April 18 match), it was difficult. It didn’t feel the same. You lose interest in the game, you’re basically just going through the motions because you have to be there.
“I had to rediscover a love for the game, get that enjoyment back, and that took some time. Eventually I got over it, moved on, and everything felt a lot better.”
Hendricks had played 18 one-day internationals from the time of his debut in Sri Lanka in August 2018, where he made a hundred, until the 2019 World Cup squad selection. His would have been a 50-50 call for that squad. While Hashim Amla hadn’t been in good form in the run-up to that tournament, his experience would always be more valued by the selectors.
“I thought a lot about it, what happened, why, but I eventually had to make peace with it and then move on,” Hendricks said.
A trip to Europe with wife Lee-Ann, taking in the historic landmarks in Rome, Venice and Milan, while the Proteas endured a miserable World Cup, provided a welcome distraction from cricket.
Going back to the Lions for the 2019-20 pre-season helped as well. “In the franchise set-up, it was different, I felt more accepted, they understood me better, I had a better feeling about myself, that’s where I could just enjoy the game again. That whole season going into the new season is where I started feeling at ease again,” Hendricks said.
Going back to the Proteas wasn’t so easy, however. Hendricks explained that even though there was a new management regime around the team, the effects of the previous year still took a toll upon his return to international cricket in February 2020.
Gradually that improved, but it wasn’t so much what occurred with the Proteas as much as what happened personally for Hendricks that helped him.
Baby Callum is six-months-old now, the light of Reeza and Lee-Ann’s lives, and though he doesn’t know it, Callum has provided his dad with plenty of perspective.
“I’m quite happy with the space I’m in at the moment. I’ve been enjoying my game. At the end of the day, there’s a lot more things to worry about,” Hendricks said.
“I’ve got a kid now, and that kind of helped in a way. Cricket is just a game, so that allows me just to go out there and play, see it as a game, not worry about results, whether I score runs, get selected or not.
“Thinking like that has helped me to relax and just play, and fortunately, the runs have been coming.”
Amidst the Proteas’ recent success in T20s, Hendricks has quietly gone about a run of form that sees him averaging 32.75 in the last eight matches he has played, with his runs coming at a strike-rate of 132.82.
However, he is not guaranteed a starting spot for the World T20 in the UAE starting later this month. In Ireland and Sri Lanka, Hendricks played because Quinton de Kock was absent and captain Temba Bavuma injured.
“It’s not easy, being in and out, playing the odd game here and there. It’s not ideal, you just have to make peace with it in some sort of way,” Hendricks said.
“When you do get the opportunity, you do what you can, try and contribute as well as you can. Play and enjoy it. It’s not easy. You don’t know if you’re playing in is your last game or when you will play again, but ja … it is what it is I suppose.”
He has already made peace with the fact that should Bavuma be fit, his role will be restricted to drinks carrier and occasional stints in the field.
“If I get the go ahead to play, then I’ll obviously be very happy and if not, I’ll just carry on and try and add value however I can in the squad and just be ready, and prepare as well as I possibly can, if I get that opportunity. I’m not too fussed.”
Hendricks and his teammates have been allowed to have their families with them during the mandatory sixday quarantine in Abu Dhabi that ends for the Proteas at the weekend, with their first match against Australia on October 23 in Abu Dhabi.
So, in between fitness work and movies, there will be nappy-changing too. “It will be interesting; the baby is still young, so I don’t think he’ll be running around like a two-year-old toddler,” Hendricks said.
That will be a welcome distraction, before the stress of the tournament, stress Hendricks is happy to handle, having missed out on it two years ago.
“I’d like to have gone to the World Cup in 2019, and everything happened the way it did. Obviously I can’t turn back (time), but in saying that, I think everything happens for a reason. I am here now. I’m quite mature now, 32, and know my game. The way things unfolded ... obviously disappointed about 2019, but now, I’m quite happy.”