Australia v South Africa, first Test, Brisbane November 11, 2012

Kleinveldt's second chance

The last time South Africa debuted a pace bowler against Australia* he took five wickets in his first match and fifty after seven Tests. Vernon Philander created giant footmarks and very few will be expecting Rory Kleinveldt to fill them when he appears for the first time in whites on the international stage in Brisbane.

A relative unknown to anyone outside South Africa, Kleinveldt's call-up was reported like Philander's, as a coming in from the wilderness. Like Philander though, Kleinveldt was not discovered in a cabbage patch in Cape Town fully formed as an international bowler. His hard yards have included two Twenty20 matches for South Africa with two years between them, and massive improvements in his first-class game over the course of half a decade.

The most popular story written about him so far though, has been his being caught for smoking marijuana in March, weeks after being reselected in South Africa's ODI squad. He was not the first cricketer to dabble in illegal substances but the timing of his dalliance with dagga (as it is known in South Africa) put his career on pause.

Kleinveldt's star was on the rise after he was named in the ODI squad to play Sri Lanka in January, but he did not get a game before he was withdrawn with an injury. Two months later, he tested positive and was immediately dropped from the Cobras' T20 campaign. Kleinveldt confessed at the first opportunity and conceded that he had "behaved irresponsibly and made a big mistake."

He was more remorseful than the situation called for, not just because of how close he was to international cricket but also since his actions had hurt more people than just cricket coaches and team-mates. Kleinveldt had set back a community desperate for their young players to gain recognition after decades of being ignored.

Kleinveldt hails from an area in the Cape with a rich history in cricket despite it being largely unwritten about. His family have long been involved with the Victoria Cricket Club where his father, who is on the tour of Australia to watch him, and uncle, Johnny were stalwarts. Johnny is one its legends along with JP Duminy, Ashwell Prince and Monde Zondeki also all played there.

Johnny opened the bowling with Vincent Barnes, South Africa's former bowling and current national selector who also works on the High Performance Programme, during their days playing under the South African Cricket Board (the body under which sportsmen of colour could play cricket). Ask around those Cape Town streets and they will tell you that Johnny could well have played for South Africa had the opportunity been afforded to him then.

Kleinveldt carried the hopes of people like that and knew he had let them down and compromised his chances severely. Tony Irish, chief executive of the South African Cricketers' Association, described him as "distraught," at the time. Kleinveldt's subsequent apology and admission saw leniency applied and he was banned for three months during the off-season, which had no real impact on his career.

All he needed to do was regain some respectability, and that was achievable through taking wickets. Kleinveldt had already ended the first-class season well - seventh on the wicket-takers list with 32 scalps at an average of 17.93 - and had winter tours. The selectors kept the faith in him when they included him in the South Africa A side to play against Sri Lanka A. His 4 for 47 was instrumental in the team's innings victory.

Kleinveldt was also part of the group who went to Ireland to shadow the senior side in England, and it was there that his challenge for a place in the Test XI took real shape. "Rory was definitely my best bowler in both those series," Barnes told ESPNcricinfo.

Even though Kleinveldt only took five wickets compared to Wayne Parnell's 12, Barnes was impressed with his control and the bounce he extracted from hitting the deck hard. "He has always been a very good cricketer and very skilful and his maturity really showed over the last year," Barnes said. "He has bowled a lot with Vernon in the first-class competition and the two of them together caused a lot of problems for the batsmen."

"He has done a lot of work with me and he has really come along. He knows that very few people get second chances and he doesn't want to waste it."
Vincent Barnes on Rory Kleinveldt

Philander and Kleinveldt built a reputation as the Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel of the Cape. Although they don't have the pace of the former two and rely more on discipline, consistency and subtlety to take wickets than swing or bounce - they claimed many scalps together. Now, they foursome will combine in a Test match and Barnes expects nothing more than great success, even though Kleinveldt may not have been expecting to play.

Word out of the South African camp in the lead up to the Test was would be reluctant to consider an all-pace attack. Gary Kirsten, AB de Villiers and assistance coach Russell Domingo all said they would, "Always like a spinner in the side," but they sprung a surprise at the toss when Imran Tahir was left out and Kleinveldt was named to debut. He performed well in the warm-up match at Sydney on a dead pitch where he bowled economically and took wickets as he looked to stake a claim for himself.

"Rory understood when he went over that he would be back up and that if the opportunity came along through conditions or injury he had to be ready," Barnes said. "He has done a lot of work with me and he has really come along. He knows that very few people get second chances and he doesn't want to waste it."

* November 11, 2012 10.45 GMT This first sentence of this story has been amended

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent