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Dwaine Pretorius connecting with son through rhino 'Westin' during time away

Allrounder back in contention after six months out first due to injury and then contracting Covid-19

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Dwaine Pretorius on son Hanlu: "When I'm away, he doesn't want to speak to me because he starts missing me too much"  •  Dwaine Pretorius

Dwaine Pretorius on son Hanlu: "When I'm away, he doesn't want to speak to me because he starts missing me too much"  •  Dwaine Pretorius

Cricket tours in the time of Covid-19 have made players all too familiar with hotel rooms, but South Africa allrounder Dwaine Pretorius has a slightly longer - and more personal - relationship with a high-end accommodation establishment.
"Before the 2019 World Cup, they [his wife and son] joined me at the Westin, and the Westin gave my son a little rhino. Now, he puts that in my bag, and that's the way I chat to him - through the rhino, which we call Westin," Pretorius said. "When I'm away, he doesn't want to speak to me because he starts missing me too much. So I chat to him through the rhino."
Pretorius' son Hanlu is four years old and isn't keen on video chats. Instead, he prefers little games of make-believe to keep in touch with his dad. "We use Google Duo, where you can have effects in the video. There's a little man in a spaceship floating in space, and I'm that guy," Pretorius says. "We call it, 'Pappa, kom ons doen die funny faces [Dad, let's do the funny faces]'. That is how we keep each other busy."
Like so many sportspersons, Pretorius has had to find ways to keep himself occupied in quarantine even though he would rather be exploring the country he is in. This is his first trip to Sri Lanka, but he won't have the chance to see anything other than the hotel and the stadium.
"The most disappointing thing is that we can't go see countries like Sri Lanka. I've always wanted to come here," he says. "We had a security officer at the Champions Trophy who was from Sri Lanka. He said, 'It's a beautiful country, you've got to come see it.' Obviously, we can't do that."
Instead, he is dividing his time between calls back home, switching off and engaging in some off-field hobbies. "You have to try and relax, because you can't be switched on the whole time. At the moment, I am finding games are the way for me to relax and get away from everything. When I want to be a bit more serious, I read some books and do some business stuff on my laptop," Pretorius said.
"If I am not in the mood for thinking too much and [am] just a bit of a zombie in my room instead of watching a movie, I like playing Call of Duty and WarZone with the guys. That's also a bit social. My switch-on period is as soon as I go through the [room] door, then I know it's cricket time.
"I don't want to be thinking too much about cricket outside that. Because you are alone so much, and you've got so much time with your own thoughts, you need to make sure the other thoughts you are busy with are completely different to cricket; because when I go to cricket practice, I don't want my mind to be tired - I want it to be fresh."
More so, because Pretorius has been out of the game for almost six months after he broke a rib against Pakistan and then contracted Covid-19, which ruled him out of the tours to the West Indies and Ireland. "It feels like [I've been out for] years and years, but it's only been a few months," Pretorius said. "I'm very happy to be back."
In his absence, South Africa used Wiaan Mulder and Andile Phehlukwayo in the seam-bowling allrounder's role and George Linde as a spin-bowling allrounder. All three enjoyed some success, and thus, South Africa go into the series in Sri Lanka with a problem of plenty. Pretorius almost hinted that the seam bowlers would have to take a back seat, but said he will remain ready and hopeful for the opportunity.
"The wicket will be slow. It looks like the outfield will be slow as well, and spin will play a massive role," he said.
And if he ends up spending more time on the sidelines - or in his hotel room - Hanlu and his stuffed toys are on hand to provide some entertainment. "He was at McDonald's the other day, and he got another soft toy. He put that in my bag as well, and that's the way I talk to him through the phone," Pretorius said. "Otherwise, I don't get his attention - he doesn't necessarily want to chat to me - because I'm far away, but this is how we're dealing with it."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent