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April 7, 2011
Davy Jacobs, unlike many modern wicketkeepers, started his career as a gloveman and has been determined to remain one. He first played for the Eagles franchise in the Free State but because of the presence of regular keeper Morne van Wyk, Jacobs moved to Warriors, where Mark Boucher's national duties gave Jacobs an opportunity behind the stumps. Although he has always been a wicketkeeper, he has never had a specialised coach; that is until joining Mumbai Indians for the fourth season of the IPL.
Kiran More, former India wicketkeeper, is the man in charge of Jacobs, Aditya Tare and Ambati Rayudu at the franchise, and Jacobs, in particular, in benefitting from his experience. "I learnt more from him in the first five minutes about wicketkeeping than I have in my whole career so far," Jacobs told ESPNcricinfo.
The learning started with More's first action, which was to take Jacobs' tried-and-trusted gloves and throw them in the bin. "He said my gloves were too small and asked me if I often got blows on my thumb," Jacobs said. "The funny thing is that the only pain I suffered from keeping was if I got hit on the thumb which Kiran told me was because of the webbing in that area. Now I have bigger gloves and I feel much more comfortable."
It's exactly that sort of specialised attention that makes Jacobs sound like an excited kid when he talks about how "blessed" he is to be part of the IPL. Jacobs was noticed after his performance in last year's Champions League T20 in South Africa, where he led Warriors to the final and was their top run-scorer with 286 runs in six matches. His fearless style of play and clean hitting saw his name bandied about for national selection and even though that hasn't happened yet, an IPL contract has, and Jacobs is glad to have achieved his aim.
"It was my goal to play in the IPL and having not played for the national team, the Champions League was my chance to get noticed."
Jacobs was struggling with a hip injury during the Champions League, but chose to play on in the tournament because he understood the magnitude of the stage he was been given to perform on. "That was my big opportunity and I had to take it."
Playing through pain had its consequences though, and Jacobs aggravated the injury to the extent that it kept him out of a significant chunk of the domestic season in South Africa. Jacobs was not able to play any first-class cricket, but after extensive work on strengthening the muscles around his hip, he featured in four 40-over matches.
"It was a strange season for me. It's been my biggest season ever because of the Champions League and the IPL but then I just couldn't get rid of the injury. I realised that you are never really in control of life, you just have to stay on the path and deal with it."
Jacobs' determination, patience and persistence ensured that he was back to full fitness in time for the Standard Bank Pro20 and although his form was patchy, he still played an essential part in Warriors' campaign. His leadership was an important part in the team reaching the final. They lost the final, but became the only South African franchise to qualify for the Champions League two seasons in succession.
Two days after playing in the final, Jacobs set off for India, his first visit to the subcontinent, and so far, he has nothing but good things to say. "You can't look up passion in the dictionary to understand this place. You have to come here and see it for yourself." Jacobs arrived in Mumbai just in time for the World Cup final, and although he wasn't able to watch it in the stadium, he took in the atmosphere in the city. "We watched the first half at our hotel and there were people with drums and flags and it was just brilliant."
A week after that introduction to cricket in India, Jacobs is preparing to play himself. He is particularly eager to link up with the big guns in his franchise, four of whom featured in the World Cup final. Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel and Lasith Malinga will join up with the squad, but it is Sachin Tendulkar that Jacobs is most looking forward to meeting. "I was seven when he started playing Test cricket, and we used to have little cricket cards; and I had a card with him and the picture of him in his little blue helmet and I thought 'this guy is cool'. Now I am in the same squad as him."
As an opening batsman, it's likely that Jacobs will soon be in partnership with Tendulkar, something he once only dreamt of. He has no indication yet of whether he will be in the starting XI but he seems to be the likeliest opener. "We are preparing as if we are going to play, even if I don't I will be supporting the guys who do 100%. I can't think of anything bigger than playing here, besides a World Cup, and I won't take one second for granted."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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