South Africa news September 24, 2010

'Batting makes me feel in my element'

From giving up the game at a young age, to returning with a vengeance and forcing his way into the national side, life had come a full circle for Colin Ingram. Now the future is calling, and he seems to be listening keenly.

Colin Ingram says he is not a shy, but a reserved young man. It is when he bats that he is able to give full expression to his personality. Perhaps, batting is a release from everything else, even from himself, and allows him to be what he wants to be. Many people go through life without finding out what they are meant to do; Ingram is lucky.

"When I have a bat in my hand and when I am hitting the ball, I feel in my element," Ingram says. "That's when I completely feel comfortable with myself as a person. I feel I am doing something that I am meant to be doing. From a young age that feeling has grown inside me."

Ingram's childhood revolved around cricket. He grew up in a farming district around a cricket field. His father was a club cricketer, a wicketkeeper cum lower-order hitter who is still going strong. His mother used to throw balls at him and one of his earliest memories is standing on the cricket field on Saturday mornings when the local people would cut grass, and make tea. He grew up listening to cricket stories and loved giving the ball a good thump. The coaches tried to temper him but, luckily, his father encouraged him to just enjoy himself. "He used to say that lots of youngsters hit the ball well when young but when they grow up they focus too much on technique and suffer. He didn't want me to do that."

His first major life lesson came at 18 when he wasn't picked for the under-19 squad. It was a big blow to his confidence and he was ready to give up the game. He did for two months. "When you are that young you think that's the end of the world and that you are done. But in the long run I guess that was the best thing that happened to me. It made me go back and find deep inside if I want to do this or not. Whether I thought it was really worth it or not."

He was in Bloemfontein then at the university, enjoying a different sort of life. He remembers the cold wintery morning when things turned around for him. "I remember thinking let me start all over again. I put on my running shoes and ran." It was the longest jog he had ever taken. At the end of it he had decided on his future: Cricket was his first love and he would stick by it. "That morning is where it all restarted for me. There comes a time in everyone's life when things become difficult in whatever you do. You have to restart. Stop, rethink and restart. That was my rebirth in cricket."

Ingram nails the most important factor in the turnaround: "Everyone was driving me in one direction from when I was young but I probably hadn't thought about what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go. That setback helped me to find it and want it for myself."

Everyone was driving me in one direction from when I was young but I probably hadn't thought about what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go

Clarity was beginning to seep in. His head was clearing up. It seemed as if the future was bright. The blinds came down soon after, though. He was released from his contract as a junior cricketer. Once again he felt claustrophobic but this time he knew how to get out. He watched a lot of cricket. This time around, there were no doubts about his desire to play cricket. It was just a matter of getting smarter, wiser and developing his game.

He did just that. He recalls the day when the confirmation of his transformation came. "I remember Davy Jacobs got off the plane and had a look at me. I had just rejoined then. And he said, "There is something different about you. You just look ready this time." Jacobs was right.

Ingram averaged 49 in first-class cricket in the 2008-09 season, 60 in List-A in 2009-10, and nearly 48 in Twenty20 in the same season. 2010 has been special. He got married to Megan Olivier this year - "She is the rock bed of my life. When your life is stable, your cricket will be stable and in balance." He likes to go fishing with Megan. He used to relax to the quiet music of Jack Johnson and Goo Goo dolls; his wife introduced him to 'Thirty seconds to Mars'.

The rock and roll year flew by. The selectors contacted him in the end. Ingram thought his selection news would come through a telephone, but he was informed by an email. "I had this picture in my mind how it would happen, you know; it was always a telephone. My coach said you got a mail and we were all in the team bus then and I saw it." Ingram rushed to share the news with Megan. He then spoke to his father, the man who introduced cricket to him. Life had come a full circle for the Ingrams. Now the future is calling, and Colin gives the impression that he is listening keenly.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo