Cape Cobras all-rounder George Linde says he never expected to win the Most Valuable Player of the Season Award (MVP) after it was announced last week that he topped the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) list for 2019/20.
The 28-year-old finished on a total of 325.337 points, marginally ahead of Dolphins duo, all-rounder Prenelan Subrayen (306.297) and wicketkeeper-batsman Grant Roelofsen (302.650).
He had a stellar campaign, especially at first-class level, scoring two centuries in the 4-Day Domestic Series – his maiden franchise tons – and also claiming 30 wickets in the six matches he played.
That put his second behind top man Subrayen (38), while Linde amassed 345 runs at an average of nearly 50.00.
Despite his heroics, however, he never expected to end top.
"I always follow the SACA MVP listings so I always knew I was number one and I wanted to stay number one," Linde explained. "It's actually weird because I set myself a goal to see if I can actually try to win that thing.
"I never really expected to win it but maybe to give it a go and then luckily enough performances went well and I got the MVP Award."
Linde, known over the years more as a limited-over specialist, says he was highly impressed with his showings in the first-class arena, but felt there was plenty of improvement needed in his white-ball game.
"I think I had a very good four-day season," he recounts. "I think I could have done a lot better in the one-day competition especially after I started off really well.
"But then I just struggled in a few of the other one-day games and never got going, but I guess that's part of the game and you can't always do well.
"I'm quite pleased with my four-day stats because that is obviously a format of the game I always want to improve and play in the most. It's also my first full season playing in the four-day comp, so very pleased to be able to have done well in that."
The SACA MVP rankings measure the overall performances of players in domestic franchise cricket across all both CSA domestic franchise competitions.
Players earn points based on an internationally recognised formula, used by many player associations around the world, for batting, bowling, fielding and a players' contribution to matches won by the team.
Apart from his exploits on the domestic scene - where he featured in seven One-Day Cup matches and also turned out six times for the Cape Town Blitz in the 2019 Mzansi Super League - Linde took an even bigger step in his career.
That was selection for the Proteas in squads for all three formats: Tests, One-Day Internationals and T20 Internationals.
He made his debut in the third Test against India at Ranchi last year, claiming four wickets in South Africa's only innings and also scoring 64 runs with the bat.
That opportunity, Linde says, was the catalyst for his outstanding year.
"I think that Test debut gave me a lot of confidence going into the season first up and I think that's another reason why I was more comfortable in my four-day game," he added. "It just felt that I was a lot calmer in tough situations for the Cobras.
"I read the game a lot better now and I expect a lot more from myself and try to perform even better, so I think it was a good thing."
He was also selected for the Proteas in India for the T20 series but did not play, before being selected for their most recent ODI trip to the Asian country that was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Now with the taste of international cricket on his tongue, the slow left-armer wants more.
"My dream since I was very young was to obviously play Test cricket for the Proteas," he concluded. "So that was always going to be my number one goal but my main goal now is to kind of get involved with all three formats and not just one, so that's going to be a big goal for me now going forward in my career."
- Cricket South Africa