The forgotten man of South African cricket – that’s how many cricket fans had referred to Morné van Wyk until recently. Then team captain Graeme Smith injured his hand again.
It was just before the Proteas’ T20 match against India on 9 January at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban. Morné (31), opening batsman and wicketkeeper for the Free State’s Chevrolet Knights, was hastily summoned as a replacement.
At that stage he wasn’t even in the preliminary team for the World Cup. In fact it was said Thami Tsolekile had been assured a place as second wicketkeeper in the squad.
But Morné seized the opportunity to show his batting power. He scored 67 runs, 50 from just 24 balls – the fastest half-century ever scored by a South African in a T20 match. And when the World Cup team was announced on 18 January he was included.
We chat to Morné in Bloemfontein soon after his return home. It’s the family’s day to spend time together and a walk in the park is customary whenever Morné returns from a cricket tour, says Carnien, his wife of 11 years.
They usually have breakfast at a restaurant then hit the park before Morné has a long nap.
“He’s usually very tired after a tour and can sometimes be grumpy – that’s why I never expect too much of him on his first day back,” Carnien reveals.
She’s a full-time mom to their children, Eran (8), Mikyla (7) and Samantha-Joy (1).
“But after the first day of being spoilt Morné is ready to take over some household duties again. Then it’s my time to rest.”
Morné looks happy. Besides the thrill of being included in the Proteas’ World Cup team he’s chuffed to have contributed significantly to South Africa’s decisive victory in the last one-day Test against India at Centurion.
His score of 56 went a long way to ensuring SA won the last game by 31 runs and the five-match series 3-2. It was a long and sometimes frustrating road back to the Proteas after making his debut for South Africa at Lords in London in 2003. That day he managed to score only 17 runs.
He got a chance to play again only in 2007 but after that he was overlooked for the national team, despite performing well for Free State.
But this season Morné played so well the selectors could no longer ignore him. In the final of the MTN40 series against the Titans he helped his team to victory with an unbeaten 85.
He’s about four years older than the average Proteas player and although many fans and experts believe he has been unlucky not to have played at international level for so long, Morné sees it differently.
“God has an end goal for us all but the route there differs from person to person,” he says. “I got my chance at the right time. As a cricketer I’m more rounded and prepared than I was before.”
Read more about our visit to Morné and his family in YOU, 3 February 2011.