Indian Cricket League 2007-08 / Features

Interview: Johan van der Wath

'My international career is over'

Johan van der Wath talks to Nagraj Gollapudi about the ICL, and why he has decided to give up on top-level cricket

Nagraj Gollapudi

November 17, 2007

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van der Wath: 'You are not always going to get the opportunities that you think you should get' Nagraj Gollapudi
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Johan van der Wath seemed a little lost as he walked around the lobby of the ITC Grand Central. Dressed in a Mumbai Champs t-shirt, he circled his ICL team-mates, looking at them for an acknowledgement or some sign of recognition. It was an ironic reflection of his international cricket career as a perennial upcoming talent, always on the fringes of the South African international side.

Now, though, van der Wath is about ready to give up those dreams finally. The ICL's offer will be an opportunity to begin a new chapter in his life, he told Cricinfo.

What made you take up the ICL offer?
My motivation was to try something new. It's a new challenge. I was going to be finished with South African cricket in any case, so I wanted to play less cricket. I have a three-year contract with the English county Northants, and I thought this (ICL) is just one month during my five-month off season, so I took up the offer. It's a new place and new feature in my career.

Was it a difficult decision to make?
I had obviously heard about ICL and I had a good think about it. Before this, I was going to rest in South Africa apart from playing on the county circuit in England and maybe playing some one-day cricket for my provincial side. But when this offer came over, I gave it a good thought before accepting it. It fit nicely with my agenda.

At 29, with more than a decade of cricket behind you, this would have been the ideal time to move on to the next level. Is it disillusioning that that hasn't happened?
I've played first-class cricket for ten years, but I felt like moving on and doing something else. I played for South Africa, but not as much as I wanted to. I felt I didn't get as many opportunities as I deserved. So I thought, at this stage of life, moving forward, thinking about what to do after cricket was good enough.

You are not always going to get the opportunities that you think you should get, since there are other players going well too. It was frustrating at one stage, but even if I had played a little bit more, my decision would've probably stayed the same, because there is more to life. My decision was made purely keeping the future in mind. When you play for your country, your schedule is so full ... and I've got other things on my mind now. I'm sort of starting a new career as well.

So, are we right in saying that this is a full stop to your international career?
This is a full stop to my international career - even if it wasn't for the ICL, I wouldn't be available for South Africa.

Does it hurt to make that admission?
It hurts when you see the guys on the field. You know you could've been there. But I've got a lot of good things coming in my future, so I am positive.

Did your domestic teams back home (Free State and Eagles) have any objection to you playing in the ICL?
Eagles had no objection. My coach and my CEO were happy for me to leave for a month. The public back home back me a lot, so does the media, but it's only Cricket South Africa who are not happy at this stage. But there may be changes in the future. Hopefully, when we get back, all the five South Africans [in the ICL - Lance Klusener, Andrew Hall, Nicky Boje, Dale Benkenstein, Nantie Hayward] can still play. We've got a lot to offer.

I will play if they let me. I will play the one-dayers before going back to England.

Gerald Majola, the head of CSA, has termed the players who opt to play in the ICL as rebels.
Gerlad Majola had said that, but I'm not sure on what basis. I've done nothing to be a rebel.

At what stage do you think you lost your motivation to further your international career?
When I went to England last year to play county cricket, it was playing at the back of my mind that I needed to focus more on my future. Then I got picked for the World Twenty20 and I decided to give my best, but I was clear even then that I would quit playing for South Africa.

Ten minutes after our loss to India I went straight to Mickey Arthur and told him, I'm not going to play international cricket anymore. I told him exactly how I felt and I had my cards open. I told him my plan and that was it. Even if South Africa would've gone on to win the Twenty20 World Cup, my decision would've been the same.

In South Africa when you are 29 or 30, the attitude is: "They've only got one or two years, so it's not the best decision to support them." If the attitude was the same as in Australia, it might've been different

There are many talented players in South Africa, who for some reason or the other, having been unable to make the international breakthrough, have started to opt for playing in countries like England using the Kolpak route. Now you're playing in the ICL. Do you think people might follow your example?
It's up to the individual. It was easier for me because I had played for South Africa, I'd sort of reached that milestone. It's difficult for someone who hasn't played for South Africa. Also, I'm 29. If I was 24 or 25 I wouldn't have picked up the ICL offer; I would've stuck aroud for another two or three years.

Ironically, in Australia, players of your age - like Stuart Clark - are making their debut.
It works a lot different for the Aussies. They don't throw in inexperienced guys. Guys like Michael Hussey and Clark have played a lot of domestic cricket before they entered the international arena. In South Africa when you are 29 or 30, the attitude is: "They've only got one or two years, so it's not the best decision to support them." If the attitude was the same as the Australians, it might've been different.

Is the quota system hurting South African cricket?
The quota system does hurt, even if it has nothing to do my decision. The system loses a lot of guys because of that. Having said that, there are a lot of good quota guys coming through - guys like Herschelle [Gibbs] and Ashwell [Prince] are fine examples.

John Buchanan recently suggested that Test cricket should be made a free arena where players can opt for the country they want to play for.
I don't know the exact details of what he has to say. Professional sport - for example, in soccer, players are free to move around - is played for a living. Personally, I wouldn't play for any other country. I'll play for a club or franchise in any country, but I will not represent anyone apart from South Africa.

You've talked about your business interests. Would you say playing in the ICL is largely a money-making decision?
It's purely a business decision. I have got a cattle-farm business and I have also have some properties, so you need time to look after that. We do play cricket for money, but I also needed time for myself.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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