Dwaine Pretorius: From operating table to Proteas

Dwaine Pretorius (Gallo)
Dwaine Pretorius (Gallo)

Cape Town - Dwaine Pretorius vividly remembers a conversation he had with his mom, Ineke, in the kitchen of their Rustenburg home when he was just a young boy. 

"I think I was 11 or 12," Pretorius recalls.  

"I told my mom, 'I want to play for my country one day ... I want to become a Protea'.

"She said, 'Yoh, my boy, there are a lot of people that want to become that. Are you sure that's what you want to become?'

"I told her, 'Yes mom, I really want it'." 

Now, at the age of 27, Pretorius' dream looks likely to finally come true. 

He has been named in a squad of 13 for a one-off ODI against Ireland in Benoni on Sunday, September 25. 

Hard work, as they say, pays off. 

Pretorius was a late starter in domestic cricket and he has also had to overcome a couple of nasty injuries along the way. 

He remembers playing in the 2007 edition of the Khaya Majola Cricket Week, and he was subsequently named in an SA Under-19 squad for a Tri-Series against India and Bangladesh that would serve as preparation for the Under-19 World Cup a few months later. 

But then tragedy, in cricketing terms, struck.

"In my first game in that ODI triangular series I tore my cartilage in my right knee, so I had an operation and missed out on going to the World Cup," he says.

That moment was potentially massive in the life of the young all-rounder.

Injured, he decided that it would be a good time to pursue his studies.

Pretorius went off to Tuks, where he completed a BCom degree in Accounting. He played cricket while he was there, but it would eat up three years of what could have been a potentially earlier introduction to provincial cricket. 

Pretorius in action for Tuks in 2010 (Gallo Images).

A stint with North West in the second tier of first-class cricket followed, and it was there that Pretorius began to get noticed. 

Finally, he forced his way into the Lions set-up, but his right knee was determined to make things difficult for him.

"Just before the (T20) Champions League in 2012 I had another knee operation ... I was down in the dumps about that one," he remembers. 

But the work of Gordon Parsons, Pretorius' bowling coach at the Lions, helped get him fit and firing in the Wanderers nets. 

Pretorius would finally get his breakthrough, but he would have to wait until the 2014/15 season to be awarded a full Lions contract. 

He identifies Chris Morris' move from the Lions to the Titans in 2015 as a majorly significant moment.

"This game is so weird. If Chris Morris didn't leave for the Titans I probably wouldn't even have got a game for the Lions last year because of the balance of the side," says Pretorius.

"It actually worked in my favour. He is my room-mate and one of my best friends and I was sad to see him go, but it actually worked in my favour."

There are many people who Pretorius credits with helping him with his development, but none more so than Parsons. 

Still the bowling coach at the Lions, Parsons was one of the first people Pretorius called with news of his call-up. 

"I had to call my wife (Zilma) first. She's been through thick and thin with me in my career so far," said Pretorius, who had to keep his selection quiet until the squad was released on Tuesday.

That was no easy task, given that Pretorius received the news from convenor of selectors Linda Zondi on Monday just as the SA 'A' side was preparing to leave Australia.

"My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I heard the news," he says.

Pretorius winning the CSA Provincial T20 cricketer of the year award at the 2012 CSA Amateur Awards (Gallo Images).

Pretorius' stats are seriously impressive, even if they are perhaps a little flattering because of his time at North West. 

In first class cricket he averages 39.97 with the bat and 21.31 with the ball, while in List A cricket he averages 37.88 (S/R 96.05) with the bat and 24.56 with the ball. 

His T20 strike-rate as a batsman is 142.25. 

Pretorius has put his hand up in a big way over the past couple of seasons - picking up wickets and making runs in all formats, becoming impossible to ignore any longer. 

At 27, he is obviously older than most are when they first break onto the international stage. 

But, because of his late start, Pretorius was never under any pressure and never lost his patience in waiting for his chance. 

"I put in some solid performances last year," he says.

"I can't control much about call-ups. I actually try and keep my mind away from things I can't control.

"I try and keep my performance up and do whatever I can and hopefully through that I can squeeze myself into a side and knock on the door.

"That's basically the mindset I've had for the last three years. If you worry about selections and getting into a squad you can actually set yourself up for a lot of disappointment if you don't get that call-up. I was very relaxed about it."

That relaxation may turn to nerves sooner rather than later.  

"As a young kid it's a dream to play for your country and just to be involved in the squad will be great. I'm holding thumbs that I can get my first cap for my country," he says.

"At the moment there aren't any nerves ... I'm just more excited.

"I have to pinch myself every now and again to make sure I'm not dreaming. I'm sure there will be some nerves when I get into the car to drive to that first practice and meet all the guys."

Unfortunately for Pretorius, he has been overlooked for the ODI squad that will do battle in five ODIs against Australia over September and October, but this is a start.

He has obviously come a long way from being a little boy in Rustenberg with overly ambitious dreams - Zilma will give birth to their first child in February next year - but Pretorius still can't hide his boyish excitement in thinking about what lies ahead. 

"To be in the same squad as an AB de Villiers, a Faf du Plessis, a Hashim Amla, a Dale Steyn ... it's a dream come true," he says.

"I told my wife the other day that the next net session I have, I'm probably going to bowl to these guys ... heroes that I've grown up watching. It's awesome and I'm really excited to have that opportunity.

"I am obviously a bit older than when guys normally make their debuts, but I had an interesting road to get to where I am now.

"It's been a great journey."

Pretorius is now a valuable member of the Lions set-up, and has forced his way into the Proteas mix (Gallo Images).

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