The Namibian cricket community is deep in mourning on Saturday following the tragic death of Raymond van Schoor, one of its biggest and brightest stars at the age of 25. Fellow players and Namibia cricket officials hailed van Schoor, the country's most prolific Twenty20 batsman, as a beloved teammate gone far too soon.
"Last night we did not only say goodbye to a dear friend, but to a teammate and a brother," Namibia captain Stephan Baard wrote on Saturday morning in a note posted on Facebook. "Ray you were always known as a fighter and someone that never stood back from a challenge, and you were fighting right up until the final moments. We never understand these things, but we have to know that god has a plan for all of us, even though we do not always agree.
"A role model, leader, great laugh in the change room and just an amazing guy to be a part of your life. We will meet again someday and laugh at all those great moments on and off the field. But until then, rest softly buddy."
Doug Watson, who coached Namibia for three years before his tenure ended in August, described van Schoor as a consummate team player. Watson said van Schoor was willing to field anywhere, bat up or down the order and even bowl a few overs if that was what the team needed.
"He was always amazing to work with, he loved hitting balls, he loved practicing and he wore my shoulder out," Watson told ESPNcricinfo on Saturday. "He was a hard worker and a genuine good guy. He was well respected by his friends, teammates, a sensational fielder and he could basically do anything.
"That was the amazing thing about him. If you asked him to play wicky, he'd probably be the best wicketkeeper in Namibia. If you asked him to stand at first slip, he was just as brilliant in the slips as he was at backward point. If you dare ask him if he wanted to bowl, he was definitely going to bowl as well. He loved playing, participating and giving his best for his country."
Van Schoor was known to friends and teammates by the nickname "Rayzor", which Watson credited to his sharpness as a fielder but also his sharp sense of humour off the field. His nickname was so well-known that van Schoor eventually had a set of customized license plates with the letters "RAYZOR" tacked on to his Toyota truck.
The wicket-keeper batsman ended his career as Namibia's leading scorer in T20 cricket with 1550 runs at 29.24 in 70 matches. He also ranks second in first-class runs for Namibia and third in List A runs while being Namibia's most capped player with 265 games across all three formats. Watson rated van Schoor as one of Namibia's finest all-time players and can't help but wonder what might have been had his life not been tragically cut short.
"You just think if he played for another five years how far ahead he would've been," Watson said. "The other guys are nearing the back end of their careers and he's only 25. He could've touched 10,000 first-class runs and definitely from a batting perspective, he was only getting better. He was only improving and working hard on his game and striking them better than he was in previous years. You never know how many he could've scored.
"He was a fit guy, lean and mean, so he probably would've played to 35. He was an outstanding and committed team guy. He always wanted to put the team first. He will go down as one of the best batsmen that Namibia had and the stats back that up but for me he was just a fantastic guy to have on the team and to be around."
In addition to his cricket career, van Schoor worked as a broker for Andre La Cock Insurance Brokers and was in a long-term relationship with the owner's daughter, Zandre. Watson paid tribute to the rest of the Namibia team for rallying around the van Schoor and La Cock families over the past week, who are well-known in the community. Raymond's father, Melt, played for Namibia in the 2003 World Cup and has served as a national team selector while his mother also is known to score at matches. His younger brother Danie made his Namibia senior team debut last year.
"It was awesome to see the team together and sticking together in this tough time," Watson said. "All of them were there as brothers but it has been extremely tough. I know a lot of them spent a lot of time at the hospital with him, just being there sitting beside him. Guys were coming in at 4 or 5 a.m. and sitting there all day."
"Namibia's not a big place so I think just about every person in Namibia knows the van Schoor family and the support from the public and from everyone has been incredible to see. Friends and families have sent messages."
Cricket Namibia sent out a message on social media Saturday afternoon inviting friends and fans to come out to United Cricket Field in Windhoek for a candlelight vigil at 7.30 p.m. on Sunday night to pay their respects to van Schoor. Cricket Namibia president Richard Frankle says the players and administrators have been overwhelmed with the support they have gotten throughout the cricket world.
"I would like to thank the international cricketing world administrators and players who have sent through messages and condolences," Frankle said. "They have come from all parts of the world and they do not stop. I really want to thank everybody out there who is really involved with cricket for their care and love."
Namibia's next match is not until December 3 in the CSA Sunfoil 3-Day Cup. According to Cricket Namibia chief executive Donovan Zealand, there are no plans at this time to postpone the match. Watson feels though that it may take a long time for the players to get over the loss of van Schoor.
"If you think of the passing of Phillip Hughes, I still think that affects and has an influence on some of the Australian players who shared a dressing room with him," Watson said. "I've got no doubt that Raymond left his mark on a lot of the players because he was so young yet so old if that makes sense. He was 25 but he had been in the change room for almost nine years.
"Being 25, he could relate to the 19, 18 and 17-year-olds in the team but he could also relate to the 28, 29 and 30-year-olds. He really was a fantastic guy, perfect gentleman, soft yet tough, hardworking, committed and loved playing for Namibia. He'll definitely be remembered and I've no doubt that at the end of each day the players will raise a toast to Rayzor and remember the fine legacy that he's left behind."