Sunday Times

Baartman exceptiona­l in nailing his yorkers


Sunday afternoons for young Ottniel Baartman were spent by the side of the field at the Western Hope cricket club in Bridgton, a tiny suburb in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, watching his cousin Douglas play.

“Watching that made me go ‘yoh, I want to be like him’. It’s so nice to be next to a cricket ground and see guys playing, and I wanted to be a bowler, because he was a bowler. Since then I’ve not looked back,” Baartman said from a luxury hotel in Cape Town this week.

Those two worlds couldn’t be more of a contrast. Bridgton is a desperatel­y poor neighbourh­ood, further proof of damning inequality that continues to exist in this country, compared to the bright lights and comfort of the SA20 competitio­n.

Baartman couldn’t wait to get out. “I see people going from a bad neighbourh­ood to a bad school and back again. They were just stuck in one community. There is a lot of talent, but in cricket terms, a lot of people just never got exposure to playing at a higher level. They kind of die in the community. I didn’t want that.”

Cricket offered a route out and, while the young Baartman didn’t have a prolific rise through the ranks — missing out on a national schools team and even a Colts call up

— performanc­es at youth level for South Western Districts, through their junior provincial team and later their academy, would eventually provide exposure on a national stage.

“Discipline was important. I was always discipline­d, always on time.”

Baartman said his mother, Maria, was the driving force at a young age. “I never had a father in my life. She was the father and mother for us. She looked after my sister and I, it was difficult for us, she was always telling us not to be mean to anyone else, that ‘we come from different circumstan­ces’, and we shouldn’t be mean or judge anyone , because we don’t know those people’s circumstan­ces or how they feel.”

His mother has been to St George’s Park, where Baartman plays for the Sunrisers Eastern Cape in the SA20, just once. “She was amazed. She was overcome with the way that people there supported me.”

Baartman has been central to that franchise’s success in the competitio­n. Winners last year, they’re back in the playoffs this season, with Baartman’s bowling critical to how they have operated.

The statistics tell just a tiny part of the story: 10 wickets at an average of 15.20 and an economy rate of 7.79, may not look spectacula­r until it is remembered that he bowls at the trickiest parts of the innings — in the power play and at “the death”.

“I love that, I love those pressure moments,” he said.

Baartman’s control and the way he executes his yorker, has become a feature of his play. “His skill set has really shown through,” said Dan Worrall, Baartman’s English teammate at the Sunrisers.

“He has an uncanny ability to hit the top of the stumps off a length, gotten the ball to nip both ways off pitches that have enabled it and then in ‘death’ overs, he’s been exceptiona­l, nailing his yorkers.”

It is that delivery, which — in South Africa at least — tends to go out of fashion, with fast bowlers constantly explaining how tough it is to bowl what has become Baartman’s calling card. Throughout last season and again this year he has illustrate­d its effectiven­ess. “It’s become second nature for me. I enjoy bowling it,” he said.

As important as executing that particular skill is the mindset required when batters are coming at you as a bowler. “That’s the battle between bat and ball, and if you stay calm in the moment, you can win that battle.”

 ?? Ron Gaunt /Sportzpics/ SA20 Picture: ?? Ottniel Baartman of Sunrisers Eastern Cape celebrates the wicket of Eathan Bosch at St George's Park.
Ron Gaunt /Sportzpics/ SA20 Picture: Ottniel Baartman of Sunrisers Eastern Cape celebrates the wicket of Eathan Bosch at St George's Park.

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