Wiaan Mulder, who won three CSA awards, was our future star in the latest edition of SA Cricket magazine.
Talent, they say, is inherited, honed by intense guidance and practice. Character, though, is forged in adversity, in the heat of battle, in defeat and disappointment.
That makes Wiaan Mulder the ideal candidate for higher honours, displaying both traits in abundance.
The St Stithians all-rounder, who has risen through the Gauteng provincial ranks from U15 level, was rewarded for his contribution to the game with the captaincy of the U19s to face Sri Lanka in a tour which incorporated two Youth Tests and three one-day internationals.
The task could not have been more formidable, for while Mulder has led his school team with distinction for two seasons now, he takes a huge step up. He leads a team which not only has 14 debutants in the squad, but one which is desperately short of success and pride.
The U19s have come a long way down a slippery slope from the U19 World Cup heights achieved under the coaching of Ray Jennings and the captaincy of Aiden Markram in 2014.
To say they have not covered themselves in glory would be an understatement. Yet Mulder, one of the new generation, has been a consistent performer throughout, and the CSA has seen enough potential to invest heavily in his cricket education. He was in the CSA Cubs U17 team in January last year, and such was his contribution that he made his U19s debut three months later, on the intimidating fields of Bangladesh. That sojourn ended in a 6-1 defeat, but it was even worse in the return tour, played in Durban and Pietermaritzburg in September. On pitches which should have been more to the liking of the South Africans they still went down 5-2.
Mulder, though, emerged with honour: he was the second-best batsman on the away trip, scoring 217 in six innings at an average of 36.16; and similarly placed at home, scoring 236 at 39.33. From the disaster that was South Africa in the 2016 U19 World Cup, Mulder was by far the best South African bowler with 11 wickets in five innings, at an average of 10.6, conceding under 3.5 an over.
Wim Jansen, the director of cricket at St Stithians, describes Mulder as ‘the complete package’.
‘He bats, bowls, is a fantastic fielder and has a great sense of the game; he is a four-in-one cricketer,’ Jansen tells SA Cricket magazine.
The school holds high hopes that not only will he follow the path blazed by Kagiso Rabada, but he will excel, too, in his captaincy.
‘He is a man who gets stuck in, but he is helped by the fact that he has huge respect from his fellow players,’ says Jansen. ‘He leads from the front and they follow him; he is the reason that we won the Coca Cola National Schools T20 series.’
Just for the record, Mulder was named Player of the Tournament; the leading wicket-taker (13) and leading run-scorer (275).
His batting is in the mould of Jacques Kallis, says Jansen. ‘He cherishes a traditional technique, although he is happy to play the lap shots and reverse sweeps when in the T20 environment. He really values his wicket, and gets quite angry with himself for getting out.’
If Mulder can combine the meteoric rise of Rabada with the longevity of Kallis, South Africa has a near-future star. – Mark Salter