Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - The long road to becoming David Wiese. Wiese will turn up for Namibia - the country of his father's birth - in the T20 WC, 2021.
Wiese will turn up for Namibia - the country of his father's birth - in the T20 WC, 2021.
David Wiese keeps “a couple of crates in my garage” in Pretoria, where he still lives despite being among cricket's most travelled players. Into those boxes goes the kit he has amassed from turning out for, at last count, 19 teams in every format except Test cricket and including new-fangled novelties like T10 and The Hundred.
“I need to make a plan with it all at some stage,” Wiese told Cricbuzz from his hotel room in Abu Dhabi. “You think you might need it someday, and then the next tournament comes along and you get another kit and another helmet. It just keeps piling up.”
When next he's home – briefly, no doubt – the pile is set to grow. Wiese will play for Namibia, the country of his father's birth, in the T20 WC. That may seem a mercenary move for a 36-year-old allrounder who has 14 T20 franchises on his CV. It isn't, as he explains: “Back in the day when I was playing for Easterns [regularly from October 2005 to October 2011], Namibia played on the domestic circuit in South Africa. As soon as they caught wind that my dad was born there and I could get a Namibian passport, they started talking to me.
“It was always something that was in the back of my mind, but then I started playing for the Titans and got picked for the Proteas and it kind of fell away. And after playing for South Africa I would have had to wait four years to play for Namibia. So while the thought has always been there I'd be lying if I said I expected to be here. I never thought I would actually end up using my Namibian passport.”
Now that he has, what did he think of the chances of a team who were last at this level at the 2003 World Cup? “We are underdogs of note, and I think everybody has written us off. But what I've gathered from the Namibian side is that's almost the way they like it.” In a country that is 64% desert and where teams travel hundreds of kilometres to play a club match, toughness comes standard.
Then there's Pierre de Bruyn, Namibia's coach, who also played for Easterns and the franchise they were part of, the Titans. But never with Wiese, who is eight years younger. Even so, the hard-scrabble culture of cricket at Willowmoore Park in Benoni – famously the flat pitch and small, fast outfield where Denis Compton plundered 300 in a minute more than three hours in December 1948 – is not a long way from what it takes to succeed in Namibia.
“Pierre was one of those hard Easterns players, and he's instilled a lot of that into the Namibian side,” Wiese said. With Albie Morkel, another Easterns and Titans stalwart, also aboard the good ship Namibia as a consultant, fighting spirit shouldn't be in short supply. There's more South Africaness on hand in Richard das Neves, the assistant coach and strength and conditioning specialist, and Maurice Aronstam, the team psychologist. The mere fact that the Namibians have those kinds of bases covered suggests they are serious.
“Nobody's expecting us to make it through [the opening round], but we can use that to our advantage,” Wiese said. “We're playing Sri Lanka in our first game [in Abu Dhabi on Monday], and they could easily under-estimate us and we could catch them unawares. It's going to be hard work, but I feel we have one or two surprises up our sleeve.”
He sounded like he meant it, which doesn't fit with the idea of the hired gun who arrives, plays and leaves in short order.
Wiese hit the road in January 2017, when he signed a Kolpak contract with Sussex. He had played six ODIs and 20 T20Is for South Africa with middling success, and Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo loomed as threats. “I saw that the door was shutting, not necessarily in T20s but definitely in ODIs. Dwaine had done well, Andile had done well.”
He had kept the Titans in the loop for “three, four months”, and had told them of his decision by the time he answered a call from CSA to hear he had been picked for South Africa's white-ball series against Sri Lanka. “I was in a bit of shock, and I said, ‘OK, cool… Thanks'. The next morning, when I woke up, the media all over were saying I had signed Kolpak. I didn't make that announcement. I had to phone back and say I was withdrawing.”
Wiese signed on with sussex in 2017.
That doesn't square with the conventional narrative of South Africa's racially targeted selection policies forcing white cricketers to go elsewhere to stay in the game. “I felt that CSA had moved on from me and it was the right time to make that change,” Wiese said. “If I hadn't signed Kolpak could I have played a couple more ODIs? Is the argument that when Andile took my spot, it filled a demographic need? But his ODI stats were really good and he deserved his position. My Kolpak move was never about me thinking the system had screwed me over. I had a family and they offered me a three-year contract; it was financially appealing.”
Although Wiese's choice was revealed in the same few days that brought news of Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw doing the same, he escaped the lashing they took in public. But he didn't avoid CSA's efforts to make Kolpaks unwelcome in South African cricket. “The way they treated us you can argue that we could have contributed more to the domestic set-up than what was allowed,” Wiese said.
The Kolpak era ended on January 1, and several previously vilified figures have since returned to the South African domestic fold. “For CSA it's probably a good thing because they won't be losing so many players. From a UK point of view, the Kolpak rule strengthened the county circuit. They can't say we just went there and didn't do anything. We made their players better by playing against them.”
Now what? “Could we get back into the system at CSA? Have too many bridges already been burnt? I'd like to think there is still a place for us in the South African set-up. Whether there's too much animosity towards us for deserting and going away, or whatever, we'll have to wait and see. I'd like to think there's a bigger picture.
“Last year Andrew Breetzke [the chief executive of the South African Cricketers' Association] got in touch with us and said they want to sit down with the Kolpak guys and mend fences so we could play domestically again to add experience and almost help out. I'd love to play another season in South Africa. The Titans will always be close to my heart and I'll always consider them my home team.”
In 2019 – the last time cricket was unaffected by the pandemic – Wiese featured in 66 matches for six teams in five countries. He popped up for the Tshwane Spartans in the eliminator and final of the MSL that year. In August this year he replaced Mohammad Nabi, the Afghan allrounder who went home for personal reasons, for the London Spirit's last two games in The Hundred. Could he, unlike many of us, make sense of cricket's latest terrible infant?
“Everyone thought it would be a 16.4-over T20 game, but it wasn't. It had a completely different feel and it was a good tournament to be involved with. Fortunately for me I came in a bit late. By that time the guys had kind of… not figured it out, but they had realised it was completely different to T20. They're only small shifts but they're really significant. Small things like bowlers can bowl back-to-back overs and the new batter has to face when he comes in. The T20 game could take a leaf out of that book.”
From there it was across the Atlantic to play five matches for the St Lucia Kings in the CPL. How did Wiese stay focused in the maelstrom of travelling and playing? “When you get that busy and play so many games you rely on momentum. There's not a stage where, for two or three weeks, you're not hitting balls. You're constantly playing, so you have to catch momentum and keep going. Your body gets trained for that and you just keep working and switching on for the next tournament and the next tournament and the next tournament…” Sounds awful, unless you're Wiese: “I love travelling and playing in all these different tournaments, and meeting new people in the different teams. It's been hard work, but I've thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Did he feel he belonged anywhere, or was it all a blur of batting and bowling on far-flung fields punctuated by adding another layer to the crates in the garage? “I've played for Sussex for the past six years, so I've got a deep emotional attachment to them. I've always had a good time there and they've looked after me nicely. In the PSL, I've played for the Lahore Qalandars for the past three seasons. The owners have stayed the same, the management has stayed the same and they've kept the core base of local players. So you start building relationships with those guys, even though it's only for a four or five-week period every year. But within those weeks you spend a lot of time together and you get to know each other well. There's an emotional bond there because of the opportunities they've given me. They've shown a lot of faith in me by retaining me. You want to repay that faith to the owners and managers and everyone.”
So then where is home for Wiese, exactly? Maybe where the kit is. Until it's in a crate in the garage.