Tuesday, 16 August
Dwaine Pretorius is too level-headed to suddenly turn into a freewheeling cavalier, but the Proteas all-rounder now believes “anything is always possible” on a cricket field.
It’s not an epiphany you’d expect from an accomplished 33-year-old international player, yet then again, that’s exactly what you’d expect to find from someone who’s played alongside MS Dhoni for the first time ever.
Pretorius belatedly fulfilled a 14-year “bucket list” wish over the past two months in representing the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (IPL), his first ever campaign in the powerhouse T20 tournament.
And the legendary Indian captain spread his immense aura exactly as one would’ve thought.
“I really enjoyed playing under Dhoni and batting with him,” Pretorius said on Monday as South Africa build toward a five-match T20 series against India commencing on Thursday .
“Seeing the brand he has in India shows you how big he is and what he’s done for the sport in this country.”
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Pretorius only ended up playing six matches, though it was ample opportunity to soak up Dhoni’s famed calmness and patience firsthand.
“The biggest thing I learnt from him is how calm he is at the crease, and how much he tries to take pressure off himself and put it onto the bowler,” he said.
“He doesn’t get too excited. He doesn’t get too down on himself. Anything is always possible. He’s very optimistic. He believes he can do anything. I’m going to try and bring that into my game – the calmness but also the self-belief that, from any position, any game can be won.”
While it’s unlikely that Pretorius will ever be the designated “finisher” with the bat for the Proteas, Dhoni’s enduring brilliance in that role has nonetheless provided him with valuable lessons as a death bowler, a role the North West stalwart is very familiar with.
“He made me realise that, at the death, the batter isn’t under more pressure. It’s actually the bowler who is under more pressure.
“You can still lose the match if you have to defend 18 off the last three balls, and as a batter you can actually win it. It was a fresh mindset,” said Pretorius.
Equally valuable – given the on-field challenges the Proteas could face ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia later this year – is the fact that he had to endure the trials of a franchise team in transition.
Chennai, boasting a reputation that’s seen them appear in 9 IPL finals and win 4 of them, were in poor form in 2022.
But it certainly wasn’t panic stations.
“I’m very glad I got the opportunity and also for CSK – one of the most successful franchises,” said Pretorius.
“It’s a very performance-based setup, so you get a lot of responsibility as a player. You prepare like you want to, come up with the plans you believe will work, and then make sure you execute your plans.”
That type of initiative is not something national coach Mark Boucher would sniff at.
The first T20 will be played at Delhi with the first ball to be bowled at 15:30.
The Sport Report – Weekly
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