PAARL – For the past six years at St Stithians College, everyone who was willing to listen was told that Wiaan Mulder would go on to play for South Africa.
And now that prophecy is about to be realised after the 19-year-old was called up to the Proteas ODI squad on Tuesday.
Mulder replaced Wayne Parnell in the squad for the remainder of the Bangladesh series after the Cape Cobras all-rounder was ruled out with a groin injury.
Like Parnell, Mulder was a schoolboy prodigy who captained his country at the ICC Under-19 World Cup.
So, it was always a case of “when” and not “if” Mulder would graduate to the highest level.
However, not even the teenager’s greatest admirers would have placed a wager on the fact that it would take only 10 first-class and 11 List A matches for Mulder’s immense talent to be recognised at the highest level.
“It is still a bit of dream. It hasn’t really sunk in. I only got here three hours ago. It is an absolute dream to be joining the likes of AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla. They are legends, and I am just going to do my best to be one of them one day,” Mulder told the media on Tuesday in Paarl.
He rushed from Potchefstroom, where he was still the overnight batsman for the Highveld Lions in their Sunfoil Series clash against the Knights in Potchefstroom, to the Western Cape.
“I got the call at about 3pm yesterday afternoon. I didn’t go out to bat yet. The coach told me I would be replaced by someone else. It’s a funny feeling to know that you’re leaving, but it’s a great feeling to join the squad.”
It certainly has been a prolific rise, but one that has undoubtedly been merited. Not only has Mulder been productive with ball and bat – he averages an astonishing 276 in the Sunfoil Series thus far this season – but he has displayed the mental aptitude required to be successful.
The latter was put to the test in a tense Momentum One-Day Cup clash against the Cape Cobras at Boland Park last season.
Although very much still a rookie at franchise level too, the Cobras realised the match was on the line when Mulder walked to the crease with the visitors requiring 50 runs off the final 10 overs for victory.
The youngster received not just a test of his technique – with Cobras seamer Lizaad Williams steaming in from the Old Drakenstein End – but also a barrage of abuse from Williams and the Cobras fielders.
It was a daunting experience – and even more so for a young man barely out of school – but Mulder showed great composure during a 43-run partnership with Lions captain Dominic Hendricks.
Although he would have been mightily disappointed not to have finished off the job after being dismissed for 25 off 29 balls (2x4, 1x6), he had done enough to take his team to the brink of victory – which they ultimately achieved – while remaining positive at the crease.
“I would definitely say it has made me mentally tougher (playing in his maiden season of franchise cricket),” Mulder said. “Playing in that specific game, it was very important for me to come in and play an innings that would get us into a good position.
“I managed to do it somehow… they came really hard at me (chuckles)!
“But I think that prepared me really well for this season because it has given me an idea of what to expect.
“It also made me realise I must just go out there and play, because someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. It is a game of cricket.”