Exclusive: Hard-Hitting Rassie van der Dussen Preps For World Cup Debut Against England
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 is set to start on Thursday in England. The home side will host our local boys, The Proteas, at The Oval in London in the highly anticipated opening fixture. The South African world cup squad features a good balance of youth and experienced players, from 23-year-old Kagiso Rabada to 40-year-old Imran Tahir. Batsman Rassie van der Dussen is another exciting addition to the Proteas camp, the 30-year-old from Pretoria chatted to MH ahead of the team’s journey to England.
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“I’m honoured by the opportunity to represent our country at the World Cup,” says Rassie, following his squad selection. Earlier this year, Rassie put on a splendid display in his ODI debut for the Proteas, scoring 93 runs against Pakistan. Now he has another big debut ahead of him with the ICC World Cup only days away, but Rassie chooses to stay calm and stick to the game plan.
“I try to stay in the moment and not think too much ahead. Having a team analyst also helps. Each team member will sit down with the analyst and go over the opposition, what the bowlers might do against you and how you can score points against them. And before the match I make sure to warm up and finish my drill so I can go into the game with confidence.”
Being at the crease can be stressful and requires great concentration, which is why Rassie focuses on making sure his body and mind is fit ahead of big tournaments. “We’ve trained really hard in the last month,” he says. “We need to make sure that we’re not only physically, but mentally fit as well. Along with the intense sweat sessions at the gym, there’s a lot of mobility training and stretching. I also make sure I eat the right food and get enough sleep.”
It has always been a dream of his to wear the green and gold on the international stage, and now he’s playing alongside some of his cricketing role models. “It’s very special to be able to play with some of these guys – Faf, Dale, JP, Imran – after looking up to them for so long,” he admits. And he isn’t the only one, younger players like Aiden Markram, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi also have the chance to learn from the veterans.
This makes for a good team dynamic according to Rassie. “We have a good mix of experienced and younger guys in the team. Players like myself, Aiden and a few others try to learn from the senior players. The younger players also bring a new energy to the squad. It all gels together to make a really competitive squad. I’m excited to get this tournament going.”
When we’re playing, we’re not just colleagues or fellow countrymen, but friends.
Rassie and the rest of the Proteas have been spending time together off the pitch to build team chemistry and get to know each other better before the tournament gets under way. This is a great way to grow the team’s spirit and become a stronger unit. “We’re actually a great group of friends, and that shows on the pitch. When we’re playing, we’re not just colleagues or fellow countrymen, but friends. We spent some time in Cape Town, climbing Table Mountain and doing other activities as a team.”
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Time off the pitch is vital for any sportsman or sportswoman, especially when it comes to recovering after a match. “It’s something we give a lot of attention to,” adds Rassie. “Physiotherapy and massages help a lot. Some guys do ice baths after games. It’s good to find ways to switch off after a match, like reading a book, or spending time with friends to get your mind off the sport for a bit so that the next day you can reset and do your best.”
Getting to this point in his career has been a long journey for Rassie. It’s something he has worked hard for without losing focus, and he encourages aspiring cricketers to do the same.
“If I can do it, anyone can. In life, there’s no way of knowing that the goals you set will be achieved, but that’s no reason for you not to go for it. Stay steadfast and give it your all every day. Strive to become a better cricketer – a better person.”