TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
AT 36, Morne van Wyk is too old to win a World Cup semi-final. How much too old? A single day.
Van Wyk has been around for 36 years and 146 days. Grant Elliott, who hit the six that broke South African hearts and put New Zealand in this year’s World Cup final, is 36 years and 145 days young.
So just one day separates a World Cup hero from the bloke who, in the previous edition of the tournament, confused his sleeping pills with his vitamins and promptly fluffed three catches.
Yet when Elliott gave a press conference at Kingsmead on Wednesday ahead of the first T20 between SA and New Zealand in Durban on Friday no-one wondered why his hair wasn’t grey like Van Wyk’s. At least not to Elliott’s face.
“I am still fit and still hungry to play,” Elliott said. “I’m sort of taking it season by season.
“I’ve got a young family as as you get older you start weighing up a number of things. But as long as I am still enjoying it and scoring runs then I’ll continue playing.”
Van Wyk’s selection in SA’s T20 and one-day squads for the New Zealand series sticks out because he replaces a man 14 years his junior – Quinton de Kock, who has been sent on SA A’s tour to India to remember the fine player he was and will be again.
De Kock was five years old in February 1997 when Van Wyk, then in matric, played his first first-class match for the senior Free State team against Border in Bloemfontein.
In fact, he featured in only part of that game. After Free State’s first innings, and with the suits’ permission, Van Wyk was summoned from school to replace Louis Wilkinson, whose father had died in a car accident.
Eighteen years on Van Wyk is one of nine players aged 30 and over among the 14 in SA’s T20 squad. Only two are 25 or younger.
The mirror image is on the New Zealand side of the fence, where just three of the squad of 15 have reached 30. Nine are 25 or younger.
Collectively SA are 410 years old. New Zealand, even though they have one more player in their squad than the home side, are 401.
But all that youth costs the Kiwis in experience. They have 237 T20 caps between them while SA weigh in with 306.
So, is an advantage of 69 caps more valuable? Or should a side nine years younger than their opponents have the edge?
Former selector Hugh Page differed with the Yorkshire wisdom that “the only thing better’en a good old ’un is a good young ’un”.
“Because Van Wyk’s an old guy doesn’t mean he doesn’t have aspirations,” Page said on Wednesday.
And, despite having spent many hours appreciating the prodigy De Kock was as a schoolboy, Page saw the sense of his temporary removal from the senior international equation.
“Sometimes it’s a case of easy come, easy go,” Page said. “I don’t know Quinton as well as I did when he was younger, but it does look like he’s been enjoying the big time. I don’t know how much he’s been putting in the hard yards.”
Van Wyk has been putting in the hard yards for 18 years now. Eighteen and counting …