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‘It felt like a video game at one stage’, says South Africa’s brand new open­ing bats­man Pi­eter Malan

EVERY­ONE gets ex­cited when a young player de­buts for the na­tional team. He brings a fresh en­ergy into the dress­ing room and of­ten plays with the ex­u­ber­ance of never hav­ing failed be­fore.

But just some­times there’s an “old pro” that gets a late call-up. A player that has taken all the hard knocks that first-class cricket can hand out. Some­one that has tucked away the flashy cover drive in favour of the leave.

Pi­eter Malan is the em­bod­i­ment of such a bats­man.

At 30-years-old and hav­ing played a decade of first-class cricket be­fore de­but­ing for the Proteas at New­lands this week, he also showed he is adept at leav­ing the ball. In fact, he left many balls dur­ing his 288-ball stay at the crease in South Africa’s sec­ond in­nings. In an age where T20 cricket has made the “leave” al­most re­dun­dant, Malan’s in­nings was a throw­back to a by­gone era.

“The last three to four years I have worked hard on it (the leave), elim­i­nat­ing dis­missals that I thought was soft es­pe­cially as a new-ball player. You want them to bowl at you.

“In South Africa it is tough fac­ing the new ball, there is nip and bounce, so you want to leave as much as you can,” Malan said.

But why did it take Malan so long to grad­u­ate to the high­est level de­spite once be­ing a tal­ented prodigy who played for South Africa Un­der-19 in the Ju­nior World Cup in 2008 along­side Proteas Wayne Par­nell and Reeza Hen­dricks?

“I don’t think I did my­self any favours. I took a lot of things for granted. I didn’t put in the hard work that was needed. I also didn’t take the op­por­tu­ni­ties when I got them. So, it’s been a long road, but it’s made me a bet­ter per­son too. It has been tough but it’s been worth it,” Malan said.

And un­like the young­sters of this mod­ern era, Malan has learnt to ap­pre­ci­ate the lit­tle things like “walk­ing out at New­lands and look­ing up at the moun­tain” be­cause he knows that it can all be taken away in a flash.

Equally, he doesn’t feel the pres­sure of try­ing to save a Test match for his coun­try on the fi­nal day be­cause he knows there are far big­ger things in the world to pre­serve en­ergy for.

“That’s not pres­sure. It is a priv­i­lege. Pres­sure is play­ing a semi-pro game fight­ing for your ca­reer. Be­ing out there with the Barmy Army and (James) An­der­son run­ning in, it felt like a video game at one stage. I felt very priv­i­leged to be there fight­ing for the team, to try and bat long and just be there for the team,” Malan added.

SA will hope this calm­ness fil­ters through the en­tire Proteas dress­ing room as they head to Port El­iz­a­beth for the third Test start­ing on Jan­uary 16.

Pic­ture: Ryan Wilkisky Back­pagepix

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