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After catching the eye with his lower-order hitting in the Champions League, David Wiese, likely to debut soon in T20s for South Africa, has set his sights on Kallis' role
August 1, 2013
David Wiese used his degree in internal auditing for just one thing: to conduct a realistic analysis of when he hoped to represent the national team. "After going through the fixtures and looking at where I was at, I made the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh my big goal. I would love to play in that," he said.
His calculations are not far off. The tournament is eight months away and Wiese is on the verge of making his debut for South Africa. They will play ten T20s, including the three on the current tour of Sri Lanka, before mounting their challenge for ICC silverware, and if Wiese features and performs in most of those, he has a strong chance of being in the squad for that competition.
But it's not just clever planning that Wiese relied on to get his opportunity. His career has been almost 20 years in the making. Wiese knew he wanted to play cricket from the age of nine, when he was growing up in the country's eastern Mpumalanga province, where that kind of ambition was easier said than done.
His early years were spent in the farming town of Standerton and he completed high school in the coal-mining hub of Witbank. In neither place can you get specialised cricket coaching, so Wiese had to join the then-travelling cricket clinic, Harry Shapiro's Cricket Institute.
Shapiro studied at the Australian Cricket Academy, where he was let in on trade secrets such as how the academy moulded international cricketers. These days, given Australia's current decline, some would argue that it is not worth knowing, but in 1995, it was a prestigious qualification to obtain. Shapiro returned home with an advanced coaching certificate and attracted many students. Graeme Smith was one who attended the winter school for seven years running.
While the institute offered all-round cricket coaching, it also had specific classes in spin. Wiese, who was "quite short" as a youngster but now towers at 1.91m, wanted to perfect the art and remembers being a "fairly good" schoolboy spinner.
As he grew older, taller and started to bowl pace, he was also nearing the end of his formative education and had to move to a big city to study further. Although he had hopes of turning cricket into a career, his parents were adamant he focused on his studies first and sent him to the University of Pretoria with strict instructions to hit the books.
|"Before a game, I often go into the middle and get someone to throw to me. Death-hitting is all about confidence, so I like to see that I can clear the rope"|
During his first year, Wiese played occasionally for the university's third team and "even spent two months just on academics", but he grew restless. His high school coach, Jaco Visagie, was in charge of the provincial union Easterns, and asked Wiese to join them.
Playing for Easterns meant driving 60km from Pretoria, in the north of Gauteng province, to Benoni in the east, but it was a sacrifice Wiese was willing to make, even if it meant "writing many tests in the dean's office because I missed the official sitting". He made an impact with both bat and ball in his first season, scoring 526 runs at 37.57 and taking 26 wickets at 28.15 in nine first-class matches, and notching up 233 runs at 38.83 from an equal number of List A games.
He also graduated that summer but never needed his degree in commerce in a professional capacity because he was contracted to Easterns and then the Titans franchise. 'It worked pretty well that way," Wiese said.
Wiese was a reliable performer, especially in the shorter formats but was lost in the glut of quality players Titans churned out. AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, the Morkel brothers, and to an extent Roelof van der Merwe, Farhaan Behardien and Marchant de Lange are all from the franchise.
What Wiese needed was an eye-catching performance to separate him from the rest. He did that in October 2012, smashing 61 off 28 balls for Titans in the Champions League Twenty20 semi-final against Sydney Sixers. His power-hitting earned him praise, and social media was abuzz with calls for Wiese to fill the void that Lance Klusener's absence had left in South Africa's limited-overs' teams for long.
It would be simplistic to think Wiese was selected on that performance alone but there is no doubt it helped. His overall T20 strike rate is a massive 172.46 and he takes a wicket every three overs or so in the format. In South Africa's Emerging Players' T20 tour of Namibia in April, he had the highest average among the batsmen, 111, and the second-highest individual score, 62 not out.
He credits the sudden explosion in his batting prowess and heightened consistency with the ball to the influence of former Titans coach Matthew Maynard, who spent two seasons with the franchise. "Matthew brought maturity to the team," Wiese said. "He wasn't a headmaster coach, and that's what a lot of us needed. At the kinds of ages a lot of our guys are at, mid-20s, we're not children anymore. It's about taking ownership of your own career."
Maynard is also recognised as the man who helped du Plessis develop his longer-form batting for Test cricket, and who oversaw much of de Lange's development. With Wiese, he focused on specific skills like lower-order big-hitting.
Wiese learned to mould himself into a finisher through specific drills. "When I started playing, I didn't see myself in that way but at some point I just started hitting the ball harder, so I thought it's something I can work on," he said. "Before a game, I often go into the middle and get someone to throw to me. Death-hitting is all about confidence, so I like to see that I can clear the rope."
Wiese concentrated on improving himself in that discipline, because he saw a gap in the market, just as he has in the allrounder role.
While David Miller is the main contender for South Africa's end-of-innings-blaster, there is still a lack of a seam bowling two-in-one player a la Shaun Pollock. Ryan McLaren has done the job in recent times, and Chris Morris has also staked a claim, but Wiese hopes he can give them some competition.
"Having an allrounder in the team always adds balance and I am working to be classified as one of the best," he said. His advantage, he thinks, could come from his fitness. Unlike McLaren and Morris, Wiese has not been injured, which he puts down to his late blooming as a pace bowler. "The later you start bowling quickly, the better for your body," he said.
He is also eyeing the role in the longer format, which he hopes people will remember he still plays. Wiese averaged over 40 with the bat in first-class matches in 2010-11, and he has bowled long spells in the domestic competition, both of which support his claim that he is not a specialist limited-overs man. "Jacques Kallis will probably retire in the next few years and I think there will definitely be a place for an allrounder in the side. But there's a lot of cricket to come before I can think of that."
For now, the T20 series in Sri Lanka presents an opportunity for Wiese to take the step up to international level. Knowing he was the only new cap in the squad, he prepared meticulously for the tour with new Titans coach, Rob Walter, who was South Africa's fielding and fitness coach for several years.
Walter's one-on-ones and the knowledge he has gained from seasoned professionals like Martin van Jaarsveld, whose "influence was instrumental", ensured Wiese was adequately prepped before he flew out last Sunday. So far it seems to have paid off.
He was in good spirits after his first training session, though slightly overwhelmed, and posted this message on Twitter after his first training session, "It was quite an experience but awesome to watch and learn from a great bunch of guys." If all goes to plan, the World Twenty20 could be a chance to for him to show how much he has learned.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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