Cape Town - National Academy coach, Shukri Conrad, believes young Northerns wicketkeeper/batsman, Heinrich Klaasen, can develop into South Africa’s very own MS Dhoni.
All the talk in the build-up to the opening weekend of the Africa T20 Cup was the showdown between national wicketkeeping candidates, Quinton de Kock from Easterns, and Western Province’s Dane Vilas.
However, it was young Klaasen who stole the show in the Pool A decider against hosts Easterns on Sunday at Sahara Park Willowmoore. With the winner progressing to the semi-finals, the stakes were high in the final match of the weekend. The pressure levels increased when Northerns were precariously placed on 58/5 after 14 overs and still needing 69 runs from the final six overs at a rapidly increasing run-rate of 11.50.
With big-hitters like Albie Morkel and Qaasim Adams already back in the dugout, the responsibility was left with 24-year-old Klaasen to club Northerns out of a deep hole. The Tukkies captain responded with a whirlwind and unbeaten 73 off 39 balls (six fours and 3 sixes) to get his team over the line and into the semi-finals with three balls to spare.
It certainly seems the time Klaasen spent with Conrad during the winter on the South Africa Emerging Squad tour to Sri Lanka has been worthwhile. Klaasen hit a splendid 136 and a half-century in the second “Test” of that tour in Pallekele. He also claimed five catches in the second “ODI” in Dambulla.
“Heinrich captained our team to Sri Lanka where we did really well. He led us to the double over the Sri Lankans. He really is a no-frills type of cricketer. There is nothing fancy about his cricket, he just gets the job done,” said Conrad, who was on television commentary duty while Klaasen closed out the game against Easterns.
Conrad believes the simplicity of Klaasen’s game is a valuable commodity in coping with the pressure-filled closing overs, which is a similar trait the former India World Cup-winning captain, Dhoni, possessed in abundance.
“Heinrich stays very calm in the situation. He stays in the moment. There’s very much a ‘poor man’s MS Dhoni’ about him. There are really no sideshows to his game and really takes the game to the opposition. He doesn’t wait for the game to come to him and that is what I like most about him. He is as tough as they come,” Conrad added.
Klaasen equally believed his game had developed on the tour with the SA Emerging Squad.
“I learnt a lot in Sri Lanka with our coach, Shukri Conrad. He helped me a lot with my mindset and how to stay positive and never go into my shell,” he said after the four-wicket win over Easterns.
Klaasen also showed the other part of his game in Saturday’s match against the Zimbabwe President’s XI when he completed a neat stumping off fellow SA Emerging Squad tourist, Ruben Claassen.
“His wicketkeeping is just like his batting. There are no frills. He takes the catches, completes the stumpings. Because he doesn’t dive around as much as other keepers, you don’t really notice him that much. But wicketkeepers are not meant to be noticed, they need to do their job and Heinrich does his very effectively,” Conrad explained.