Going beyond the comfort zone

I’m writing this after our first two games of the IPL, and it’s great to have a win under the belt, after defeat in our opening game. Glenn Maxwell was just on fire for the Kings XI Punjab in that game – 95 from 43 balls – and there was very little my Chennai Super Kings teammates and I could do. It was just one of those special innings. I actually think we played quite well otherwise, but Glenn showed us where we needed to put some work in, in terms of our bowling. There was also a fantastic innings from David Miller – 54 not out from 37 balls – and that just bodes well for the future of South African cricket, particularly in the shorter format games. I expect to see David doing that sort of job for South Africa for years to come. JP Duminy has also hit some form early in the competition, with scores of 67 not out and 52, although he came up short against us. It’s good to see my mate doing well, and again, good performances from a South African point of view can only be good news for the national team, as the guys are just extending their experience in different conditions and against different bowlers. Things came together for us in the second game, with our batting effort providing a great example of how we plan to approach accumulating big scores. Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum are up front to give us a fast start, and then we have the big hitters in the middle order – Dhoni, Dwayne Bravo and Jadeja. Dwayne didn’t play that second game against the Delhi Daredevils, but the way our batting progressed showed how we plan to go about things. Suresh Raina and myself are there to glue together the big hitters up front and in the middle order, by making sure the run rate remains good. When I first arrived a few weeks ago, I was hoping to get one of the opening spots, but coach Stephen Fleming explained that he wanted me to play this ‘bridging’ role, and I’m fine with that, even though traditionally I prefer to bat in the top three, because of my style of play. The 24 from 17 balls I got against Delhi was a good example of the role that Stephen wants me to play. On this occasion Raina pushed on to make 56 and Dhoni smashed 32 from 15 balls, and, as a result, we were able to get 177 on a wicket that wasn’t necessarily conducive to strokeplay. That put the pressure on the Daredevils and our bowlers then finished things off with a good display. We spent about a week in Abu Dhabi, and that is now followed by a week in Dubai, before we make the trip to India. I enjoyed my time in Abu Dhabi and it was great to have Imari here with me, particularly as there’s quite a lot to do and some nice places to eat. Our excursions included taking in Yas Waterworld, which I always make sure I visit. I get to act like a kid and it has nearly 50 rides and slides. Also up there is Ferrari World, which is located on Yas Island, and is a huge Ferrari theme park. That was a great team outing if you’re a bit of a ‘petrol head’ and like Ferrari. It’s a really nice squad here at the Super Kings, and there’s a good mix of overseas players. Having played a fair amount against Brendon McCullum, it’s been good to get to know him better in person. As has always been the case, the Kiwis, Aussies and South Africans tend to stick together. So, we’ve got Brendon and Matt Henry from New Zealand and Ben Hilfenhaus and John Hastings from Australia. As the only South African, it’s been good for me to spend time with guys from other countries, as you tend to do the same things you’ve always done when it’s you and some fellow South Africans. So, it’s been good to be taken out of my comfort zone and to learn a few new things, as well as understand the different cultures a bit better. That being said, it’s been good to have my wife around to remind me that I can still speak Afrikaans!