Baartman lives the dream in the Big Apple

cricket08 June 2024 08:14| © Cricket SA
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Ottneil Baartman and Keshav Maharaj © Getty Images

Proteas seamer Ottneil Baartman is living the dream after a staggering ICC Men’s T20 World Cup debut earlier this week.

The 31-year-old claimed remarkable figures of 4-1-9-1 against Sri Lanka in South Africa’s opening Group D win in New York – his wicket of Pathum Nissanka coming with his very first delivery on the world’s biggest stage.

Baartman’s appearance at the Big Apple came 11 days after his international debut against West Indies in Kingston.

“Obviously as a kid you always dream about playing for South Africa, playing for your country, but when you put the jersey on it's a different feeling and one you can't describe,” he beamed. “So it was a dream come true, I mean to represent your country at this stage, irrespective of the format, it is really the sweetest feeling.”

He says striking with the first ball did go a long way towards “settling any nerves” as he played a pivotal role in what was a confidence-boosting win at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium.

Reaching this point of his career has been long-coming for one of the country’s most consistent domestic performers. Baartman was previously called up to the Proteas test squad for a tour to Pakistan during the Covid-19 pandemic, but never made it onto the plane.

“Unfortunately I had to withdraw because of Covid and at that time it was obviously disappointing not to go on a test tour,” he recalled. “But everything in life happens for a reason.

“You can't sulk for too long and have to move on, which I did. You still have your domestic team who you play for and for whom you are trying to win things. It was naturally a disappointing time, not just for me, but for the family as well.”

The mention of family, and especially his mother, Maria Baartman, is close to Baartman’s heart. He comes from a difficult background and his mum was instrumental in getting him to where he is today.

“She was my hero when I was young because my father wasn't part of my life at that stage,” he says.

“She's the one that raised me and she's the one who was always there. When I was stressed and worried, she was the one who calmed me down.

“She has been my biggest hero and the most important person in my whole cricket career. The journey we went through, the tough times we experienced, she was the one person always there for me, standing by my side and never shying away from any challenges.”

Meanwhile, Baartman is also proud to have reached the top in South African cricket in a format that not many had rated him.

“Initially people only saw me as a test player, but I worked very hard at my game to get to this point and prove those people wrong,” he added. “I think I can now hold my own in both formats. I am proud of that; I've embraced the moment.”

The Proteas will again be in action today when they face the Netherlands at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium from 10:30 local time.

South Africa Group Stage Itinerary - ICC Men’s T20 World Cup West Indies and USA 2024

Monday, 03 June - 10:30 (16:30 SAST)

South Africa beat Sri Lanka by 6 wickets - Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, New York

Saturday, 08 June - 10:30 (16:30 SAST)

Netherlands v South Africa - Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, New York

Monday, 10 June - 10:30 (16:30 SAST)

South Africa v Bangladesh - Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, New York

Friday, 14 June – 19:30 (01:30 SAST)

South Africa v Nepal – Arnos Vale Ground, St Vincent