Proteas banking on Anrich Nortjé’s ‘positive energy’ at T20 World Cup

Proteas fast bowler Anrich Nortjé is congratulated by Keshav Maharaj after claiming one of four Sri Lankan wickets at the T20 World Cup on Monday. Photo: IANS

Proteas fast bowler Anrich Nortjé is congratulated by Keshav Maharaj after claiming one of four Sri Lankan wickets at the T20 World Cup on Monday. Photo: IANS

Published Jun 7, 2024


If ever there is a country where making a good first impression on sports fans is crucial, it’s the United States.

Americans are notoriously fickle in trying anything new – even football (or as the Yanks refer to it, “soccer”) took decades before breaking into the notoriously robust US sports market.

And over the course of the next couple of weeks, cricket will have to put the best version of itself forward during this ICC T20 World Cup if it is to leave a lasting impression.

On the evidence of Monday’s opener at the Nassau County Ground in Long Island – on the outskirts of New York – between Sri Lanka and South Africa, the surfaces will need to improve dramatically if this is to happen.

Although the Proteas came out on the right side, courtesy of a six-wicket victory, the pitch – which is a drop-in surface cultivated at the Adelaide Oval in Australia – was sporty, to say the least for the duration of the 35.3 overs the match lasted.

In a format that is routinely dominated by batters, there must be concern that the opening game in the US saw a Men’s T20 World Cup record 127 dot-balls out of the 214 faced. Only five sixes and six further boundaries were struck in the entire encounter.

Just to add to the disappointing nature of the contest, Sri Lanka were dismissed for an all-time low total of just 77 in 19.1 overs.

Proteas fast bowler Anrich Nortjé’s 4/7 was also his career-best figures, which is remarkable on its own, considering the 30-year-old express had only managed seven scalps in the entire Indian Premier League recently.

It was therefore not surprising that Nortjé found nothing much wrong with the Nassau County ground surface, and claimed that the entertainment provided to the 12 562 spectators that turned up remained high quality.

“I thought the game was great,” Nortjé said. “I thought the entertainment was there. I thought the people were there. It was a brilliant spectacle.

“It was brilliant to see everyone, to hear the voices, the noise, the cheering. I thought it was a great day for cricket.

“It doesn’t always mean, correct me if I’m wrong, there needs to be 20 sixes in a game to make it entertaining.

“There’s still a lot of strategy that goes into the game. There’s a lot of skill that goes into the game, whether it’s sixes or fast bowlers or spinners – however it might be.

“So, I thought the game was a brilliant game. It was still a close game at the end of the day, another wicket or two, and things might have been different. We might have been in a little bit more trouble.”

While Nortjé’s views may be slightly biased, there is no debate surrounding the importance of his return to form after his lengthy injury lay-off that saw him miss last year’s 50-overs World Cup in India, and that it is indeed a double boost for both the individual and Proteas team.

When firing on all cylinders, Nortjé is among the fastest bowlers in the world that can scythe through any batting line-up, regardless of the surface.

Confidence, though, is a major factor, and the doubts would have been creeping in after his initial return from injury saw the 30-year-old looking like an imitation of the usual destroyer-in-chief.

However, even during the toughest times, the fast bowler remained steadfast in his belief that he could make a successful comeback.

He will look to continue his good form for the Proteas in their next match against The Netherlands at the same New York venue on Saturday (4.30pm SA time start).

“You sort of know as a player what you can do and what you can produce,” Nortje said.

“The important thing is keeping the 20 people who work with you very close to you, and the other 10 million that abuse you, to keep them out of your circle.

“It’s about having the positive energy, and the positive sort of people around you in your close circle – and not letting anyone into your circle who’s not on a positive note.

“I think from there on you would be good. It’s a process, and it will happen somewhere, it’s just about when and where. That’s very important as a player.”