Centurion - Ray Jennings remembers the day he first saw Mangaliso Mosehle as if it was yesterday. He was one of the Proteas’ many T20 debutants in the team’s 19-run win against Sri Lanka at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Friday evening.
“Mangi” did not disappoint on debut in this, the first of three T20s – his first scoring shot in international cricket being a square-driven six and his first dismissal a catch off fellow debutant Lungi Ngidi’s bowling.
“It was in 2007 when I looked at this little guy lying on his back, doing sit-ups during Under-17 fitness tests at Easterns,” says the legendary Jennings, a former Transvaal wicketkeeper and ex-SA Under-19 coach.
“What caught my attention was the colour of his skin – he had the glow that great athletes have.
“I immediately went to the [SA Under-19] selectors and told them: ‘We have to get this guy.’
“I told them we needed a reserve wicketkeeper for our World Cup squad in 2008. To think that it is 10 years from having made that decision just based on fitness tests – I am over the moon.”
Yet despite playing SA Under-19 cricket for three years, Mosehle – who celebrated his Proteas selection with his maiden century in four-day cricket against the Titans last week – has only now been recognised for higher honours.
The consensus between Jennings and Geoffrey Toyana – currently Mosehle’s coach at the Lions, and the man who welcomed him to the Easterns fold all those years ago – is his inconsistency and having the likes of Mark Boucher and Quinton de Kock in front of him in the queue.
A wealthy man’s Loots Bosman, Mosehle, 26, has been as destructive with bat in hand as he has been unpredictable.
A case in point was his scarcely believable knock in last season’s Ram Slam T20 final against the Dolphins.
Batting at number three for his old team, the Titans, Mosehle scored 87 off 39 balls (six fours and seven sixes) to help his team reach a target of 160 with 19 balls to spare.
About this knock, Titans chief executive Jacques Faul said: “They came to see Quinny [de Kock] and KP [Kevin Pietersen] but saw Mangi.”
Typically, though, his coaches, current and past, are keener on nitpicking.
“I’ve told him to stop playing like Viv Richards because he is not Viv Richards,” says Jennings, who calls the player he taught to swim his stepson.
“He likes those West Indies shots and you saw that in that innings against the Dolphins. Some of the shots he played are not played here.
“I have been telling him for three years to tighten up and the maturity seems to be kicking in.
“Instinctive players like him need to adjust, but he is a good kid who does not just want to do well, but also wants to earn things.”
Toyana emphasised the need to understand how to work with Mosehle:
“He is one of those players who are difficult to coach – a dangerous player. So, you have to trust him to back his instincts.
"He is the type of player who needs runs, a confidence player you have to keep reassuring.
“But you have to give him a role he understands because when there is no direction he can relax and drift.”
Mosehle, who is from Duduza township, west of Nigel on the East Rand, may have been one of a raft of new caps selected by the Proteas, but it is the greatest news his family has ever received.
When reports started doing the rounds that SuperSport Park had been sold out by Wednesday, it may well have been by the Mosehle clan.
“We have bought a lot of tickets; the whole family will be there,” said his uncle, Thami Mtshali.
“We are taking 10 buses. Where have you ever seen a guy from Duduza make it into the Proteas team?”
The happiest of the clan will be his grandmother Virginia, who raised Mosehle while his mother was at work.
So close is Mosehle to his grandmother that his shirt number, 40, is the year of her birth.
“He has put a wall around my house here in Duduza so I can be safe. I’m so happy for him,” she says, describing her grandson as “very calm and humble”.