20 March 2018 09:46 AM



‘If It Works For You, Stick To It’: South Africa’s Under-19 Skipper Van Tonder

South Africa’s young team boasts some outrageously talented cricketers

As South Africa approach another ICC event, albeit an under-19 one, the focus is, as it usually is,on the skipper of the colts team. Led but the mercurial, Raynard Van Tonder, who has quite a history to match up to if we go three years backward, South Africa's under-19 outfit boasts of some outrageously talented cricketers including Makhaya Ntini's son, Thando Ntini.

South Africa have defending champions, West Indies, Kenya and hosts, New Zealand in their Group for the league stage and should ideally progress easily from the group. But with the hosts posing a tough challenge, the task is cut out for Van Tonder and his men.

The bigger teams in the competition, India and Australia will at some stage become opponents if South Africa do manage to qualify to the next round. Three years back, a sensational group of teenagers led by Aiden Markram and including Kagiso Rabada, Wiaan Mulder and Andile Phehlukwayo (all of whom are part of South Africa's International sides now) took home the World Cup and Van Tonder would look up to them for inspiration.

Here in an exclusive chat with Citizen, the young South African skipper details his career growth, idols, World Cup prospects and much more.

Q: How did you develop a liking to this game and what is your first memory linked with cricket?

Van Tonder: When I was 4 my dad started to throw balls to me and I had I little bat, since then I just loved hitting balls! I am a very competitive person and the competition between batsman and bowler never stops and that is what I love about cricket.

Q. A short description of your journey to under-19 cricket.

I went from all the CSA development programmes at school cricket through to provincial level and I did well there for quite a while and then got picked in the SA u19 team. From hitting balls as a four year old to representing South Africa at an World Cup is a dream journey. I am yet to come to grasps with it.

Q. You are not just representing but also captaining. What is the feeling knowing that you are going to captain your nation in a World Cup.

To me it’s a massive honour and privilege, I am really looking forward to it and my aim is to win that trophy. We have a couple of real superstars in this side including Makhaya Ntini's son [Thandi Ntini] and the conditions in New Zealand is also not unfamiliar to us with SA having similar pitches. We really hope to make an impact.

Q. From the last two World Cups, men like Aiden Markram, Kagiso Rabada, Andile Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder have made it big in International cricket. How do you see these senior players? Are they an inspiration and how?

It really motivates me to see such young players who were in the same position as us now, making it big! It gives us that belief that if we can perform on the world stage, something big might just be around the corner for us as well. Markram, for instance, skippered at the 2014 World Cup I think, and was given due recognition by the selectors. Obviously, he is immensely talented as is Rabada. But it just makes us want to strive more. Such players are a huge inspiration for us.

Q. What do you hope to achieve in the World Cup?

Personally, I would like to lead our batting unit and win us games with the bat, but on a captaincy front, our primary objective is to win the World cup. Not many have done that for SA but that does not stop us from believing. We have the firepower to come back with that trophy.

Q. Do you think under-19 cricket is a huge stepping stone to the South African team?

I believe it helps in a way, it definitely gives you the edge exposure-wise, but playing SA u19 doesn't mean you’re going to play for the Proteas. There is a lot of talent in South Africa, a lot of hungry players who may not have gotten the opportunity to play SA U19 but then excel in provincial and franchise cricket. The beauty of SA cricket is that there are so many areas where you can get exposure and opportunities for scouts to see you or find you. If not SA U19, then provincial and franchise cricket, but also even club cricket.

Q. Which format do you prefer and how do you evaluate your own technical game?

I don’t mind the format, all of them are very different in intensity and you just need to be able to adapt and play the situation. I am not a very technical person. If it works for you, stick to it is my way of doing things.