A chip off the old block

2014-11-07 00:00

PADDY Clift was a fine all-round cricketer who played for Rhodesia, Natal and Leicestershire.

He was a player who valued the game and expected the highest standard when on the field. Sadly, he was one of those cricketers taken from this world far too early at 43, but his appreciation for the game, and sport in general, lives on through his son, Rob (32), who turns out for Crusaders. “I was fortunate to be born in Leicester and am thankful to my folks as that enables me to enjoy a British passport. My dad played many seasons there, playing six months for Natal then six months in England,” said Rob.

As a lad, Rob grew up in an environment rich in cricket. He watched his father play and it was natural for him to follow the same route. He was only 13 when Paddy died, and was left wondering what great influence his father could have had on his cricket but, as a club player and a coach, he is content with what he has.

“I was left to my own devices and there was no pressure from the folks to specifically follow cricket,” said Rob. “I played at school and kept involved in the game thanks to the great mates I had through playing.”

Rob attended La Lucia Primary and Virginia Prep before finishing his schooldays at Northwood where he played for the first cricket team for two years. “I batted six or seven and was an off-spin bowler,” he said. “We had quite a strong team then and games against DHS saw us come up against players such as Hashim Amla and Imraan Khan. It was competitive, tough schoolboy cricket, which I enjoyed.”

While turning out for the first cricket team, Rob was at the other end of the scale in winter, during rugby season.

“I had to stay in one piece for cricket so I turned out at lock for the notorious sevenths in my matric year. It was a jog and a laugh, great fun,” he said.

After school came university and Rob headed to UCT. Today, he has two degrees to his name — B.Comm economics and Honours in financial analysis and portfolio management — definitely a chip off the old block as Paddy worked in the banking world.

“I played a few games for the UCT first side then became quite involved with the seconds,” said Rob. “After varsity, I played some cricket in England and Australia, playing in the Kent Premier League for two to three seasons and turning out at a social level when I lived in Brisbane for two years.”

Returning to Durban in 2008, Rob joined Crusaders where he is a vital middle-order batsman and useful bowler.

“We have had some great sides through the years, particularly under Duncan Miller. To date, we have won five Premier League titles on the trot, aiming for our sixth this season.”

Winning the Premier League means playing in the National Club Champs. Although Crusaders have not won that prize, Rob remembers the year they reached the final, coming up against the Free State University.

“Along the way, we had beaten the mighty Tuks side. That was in 2010 and now, four years later and counting, we remain the last side to have defeated them. They are awesome.

“Anyway, for some reason, the pitch for that final was watered overnight and of course, we lost the toss. At five for three, we were dead but recovered to post around 160. We lost by five wickets,” he said.

“Still today, we talk about that game and it remains an ambition of mine to win the club champs.”

Despite his financial prowess, Rob is a full-time coach, focusing mainly on cricket. Paddy started a sports academy in Durban North, one of the first in greater Durban, which has been run by his wife, Penel, for the past 18 years.

“Cricket is the main sport but there is also hockey, soccer, netball, tennis, swimming and general ball skills. I also coached the Northwood first cricket team for a year, taking them to the final of the coastal schools T20 competition, where we lost to Westville Boys’ High at Kingsmead,” said Rob.

“I can’t complain. I play cricket for enjoyment and get to coach full time. Even though I have those degrees, it beats putting on a collar and tie every day and sitting behind a desk.”

Clift Lifestyle

• Loves sport and has also played hockey.

• Plays golf off a “bad” 15 handicap.

• Enjoys swimming and the beach, but is no surfer.

• When it comes to soccer, supports Leicester City.

• Enjoyed his team’s 5-2 win over Man United this season.

• Coming from a sporting family, he loves the culture of SA sport, particularly rugby.

• Likes to cook — his speciality is a chicken pasta with lemon juice and coriander.

• Favourite meal is chicken pasta.

• Wishes to play a musical instrument — guitar or piano.

• Massive music fan but prefers older rock and “real” musicians.

• Has seen Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi among many live gigs.

• Reads sport biographies/autobiographies.

• Movies is zone out time.

• Enjoys comedies and classics like Gladiator and Men of Honour.

• There is nothing better than a cold beer and occasional red wine.

• Drinks tea.

Favourite cricket moment

Being part of Crusaders’ five successive Premier League titles.

Worst cricket moment

That semi-final loss to Australia at the 1999 World Cup Allan Donald dropped his bat and the Aussies went through because they finished higher in the Super Six table. Clift was there in the crowd, a 16-year-old exchange student. “I was gutted and still am,” he says.

Advice to youngsters

Sport is an amazing way to meet friends for life, real friends who stay in touch wherever you may be.

It’s a great avenue to meet people and such an environment gets the best out of you. Get involved and do the work to enable maximum enjoyment.

Favourite cricket players

He loves the way David Miller plays and admired Shaun Pollock’s great line and length.

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