It has not been easy being Farhaan Behardien. Despite being among South Africa's top domestic performers, Behardien has received scant public support when promoted to national ranks.The most criticism is a broad brushstroke claiming he is out of his depth, and his numbers don't do him any favours.
From 51 ODIs, Behardien has a batting average of 30.58 without a century. In 25 T20s, he has only collected 232 runs at 23.20. He has been touted as an allrounder but 17 wickets in international cricket doesn't quite justify the tag, and he has often been the scapegoat when South Africa struggle. Somehow he has not let it bother him too much.
"I didn't cover myself in glory three or four years back but it's also tough to make it on the international stage. I just try not to think too much about what other people think," he said.
The early part of Behardien's international career was unrewarding. In 2013 and 2014, he played 16 ODIs and averaged 22.33 and the same number of T20s at 17.14. He was batting in the lower middle-order, and was often only required to come in for a few overs either when the big runs had been scored or when the cause was already lost. But in the two years since, tasked with a clear finishing role, there has been a major improvement. Since January 2015, Behardien has played 35 ODIs and averages 36.61 and in nine T20s, he averages 37.33.
He has accepted more responsibility and has played a part in some of South Africa's most memorable wins: a T20 in Dharamsala, and a victory over Australia in Guyana are two recent examples. Most importantly, he has understood the importance of his own role. "I know when I haven't performed and when I don't do well, we tend to lose because its such a high-pressure job. Batting at No 5,6 and 7 is high risk-high reward."
Now, Behardien faces the biggest risk, with possibly the biggest reward of his career. With several senior players resting over the next week, his success in the domestic T20 competition, where he finished as the third-highest run-scorer and helped the Titans claim the title, has been recognised and he will lead South Africa in three T20s against Sri Lanka. For him, as it would be for many others, it is "the proudest moment of my career."
Behardien has some leadership experience at the Titans, most recently in the T20 final when regular skipper Albie Morkel left the field in the first over with a hamstring niggle. "David Wiese and I took over the reins and navigated the team through that period," Behardien explained. "Our style was for the players to empower themselves and to make their own decisions. When the pressure moment is on, they need to make good decisions."
That is the approach he intends to use at national level as well. Despite being put in charge of an inexperienced, experimental group of players, Behardien has promised to trust them to know what to do because be believes they are all deserving of the step up. "All these players have showed unbelievable form in the T20 challenge," he said. "Our practice sessions have been very intense and guys are looking to impress the selectors and the coaches."
Behardien has another group of people to show his best side to. His parents and brother are flying up from Cape Town to "see if he tosses the coin right," and be part of the sell-out crowd at his adopted home in Centurion, where he has played his cricket for the last decade. At least this time Behardien can be assured the cheers will be for him too.