Behardien wears the pants

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

“IT’S not in the looks,” men not blessed with movie star faces would say a generation ago. “It’s in the broeks.” In cricket, which is overly concerned with aesthetics, something like the reverse applies: it is in the broeks, but it’s also in the looks.

Which is not good for Farhaan Behardien, who does not look like what South Africans recognise as an international cricketer.

For one thing his strong suits are strokes played with economy of movement and balls bowled to negate rather than deflate.

For another he is coloured in a culture that, in its chattering classes, continues to demand proof from anyone who is not white that they are twice as good as the nearest paleface before they will be valued. Behardien’s selection for the World Cup only fuelled that fire.

That he was picked despite having eked out 117 runs in five innings in a one-day series in Australia helped it burn. That there were sound cricketing arguments to be made for naming Ryan McLaren instead were destroyed in those flames.

That he flew under the radar for most of the World Cup, batting just twice for his 74 runs and bowling only 11 overs, was for his own good: when SA’s semi-final exit erupted into a storm over Cricket SA’s meddling in selection on racial grounds at least Behardien, who did not crack the nod for that game, wasn’t in the firing line.

But a funny thing has happened on Behardien’s way to the list of those who are seen as nothing but quota players – he has become quite the player.

The 70 he scored against New Zealand in the second one-day international in Potchefstroom in August was in a losing cause, and so quickly forgotten.

Not so Behardien’s contribution on SA’s tour to India, where he helped JP Duminy win the first Twenty20 and with AB de Villiers took SA to 303/5 in the first ODI – enough to win the match by five runs.

But the questions put to him afterwards were mostly about Duminy and De Villiers.

Batting with Duminy was “a blessing”, Behardien said. “He has a calming influence on me.”

De Villiers “is that good a player that if he bats for 50 or 60 balls he will end up scoring a hundred”.

True. So’s this: Behardien has it in the broeks. Bugger the looks.

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