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Ken Borland

Fringe Reeza says he has missed some opportunities by trying too hard

Posted on July 04, 2022 by Ken

Reeza Hendricks has been one of those perennial fringe Proteas batsmen, often chosen in squads but seldom getting a lengthy run of games, and he feels that he has missed out on some opportunities through his international career simply because he tried too hard.

For a sportsman to make it at international level, they need to have a massive hunger to play in that high-stakes arena, so one can understand someone on the fringes being desperate to grab whatever opportunities they get to play and impress. But that desperation can sometimes be counter-productive, like someone who is drowning frantically trying to grab their rescuer and pulling them both down into the depths.

Having made his Proteas debut in 2014, in a T20 series in Australia, Hendricks has played 24 ODIs and 40 T20s since then. So an average of eight matches a year, which neatly captures his status as a nearly-man for South Africa – a regular pick but not really a regular starter.

Now 32, Hendricks is no longer fazed, he is used to having to make the most of limited chances.

“It’s just how my career has gone,” Hendricks told Saturday Citizen this week. “You just have to find a way of dealing with it. I’m in a good space now, whatever happens, I will just always be ready.

“My attitude has changed from a couple of years ago though. When I was younger, I was trying my hardest to break into the team and nail down a spot. But the more you think about it, the more pressure you put on yourself and you don’t do as well because of it.

“I obviously want more opportunity, but I don’t feel more pressure now when I get it. I just try and take every opportunity I get and my mindset is to try and be the best I can be on that day.

“And if things go good or bad, such is the game,” Hendricks said.

The Central Gauteng Lions star played just one ODI last season, scoring 6 against the Netherlands at Centurion, but he was amidships in the T20 World Cup in the UAE, sadly struggling as he scored just 17 runs off 25 balls in the three matches he played.

It is probably fair to say that Hendricks took a while to get going last summer. At domestic level, he was solid, if not spectacular.

In four-day cricket, he averaged 42 for the Lions with 294 runs in seven innings, but there was only one century and one half-century. In the T20 Cup he averaged 28 at a strike-rate of 122, but only passed fifty once.

But the top-order batsman ripped it up at the end of the summer.

His return to his best came in the One-Day Cup final. Going into that match against the Northerns Titans at Centurion, Hendricks had made just 110 runs in six innings.

But he spearheaded an extraordinary victory for the underdogs, lashing a magnificent 157 off just 136 balls as the Lions recovered from 214/6 to chase down 319. It was one of the greatest innings in South African domestic 50-over cricket and a timely reminder of his class.

Suddenly, the selectors’ decision to keep him on the national contracted list made perfect sense, and Hendricks then went on to stroke two more centuries for SA A in Zimbabwe. Shortly thereafter, he was named in the Proteas squad for next month’s T20 series in India.

“I wasn’t focused on making a statement,” Hendricks assured despite there definitely being whispers around South African cricket that maybe his international days were over. “I just wanted to go about my business and try contribute to the team.

“In the One-Day Cup final, we needed someone to stand up. In the build-up, I felt that there was one big knock just around the corner, but I didn’t know it would be a really big one. I just tried to stay in the present moment and then cash in.

“So I was in a good space and then able to capitalise on my form, having a good run for SA A. That tour obviously helped when it came to selection. I always want to keep knocking on the door, put my name in the hat.

“Before that, it was not a bad season, I felt I had been fairly decent. I went about my job quietly, although I didn’t score as many runs as I would have liked. But then the last bit was really good,” Hendricks said.

Back on-song and eager to show the Proteas they can rely on him whenever they need him, Hendricks will call on his experience to keep reminding the South African public of just how classy a batsman he remains.

“I think my understanding of my game is a lot better now and I’m quite comfortable with how to approach situations and different conditions, the different game-plans that are required,” Hendricks said.

The Kimberley product will be out to show he is not on the slippery slope down towards the twilight of his career, but rather at his prime as a batsman, with much to offer the Proteas.

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