Wihan Lubbe starred in the 2019 MSL, struck 83 on debut for Durban Heat and will be key for North West and the Lions this season. We talk to him for more …
Your 83 on debut for the Heat came against a Cape Town Blitz bowling attack spearheaded by Dale Steyn, Anrich Nortje and Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz. Talk us through that hefty challenge.
It’s not only nice to get an opportunity in the XI, it’s also great to be able to get in and score a solid innings against a strong bowling attack. It gives you a lot of confidence that you are doing the right thing and moving forward with your career. Yes, that bowling attack was particularly special with Steyn and Nortje in there. Riaz was tricky to face. He has been around for a while and has a lot of experience. He knows how to get back at the batsmen when they are going at him.
Some T20 tournament upstarts are flustered when thrust in front of the camera. Do you relate to that?
It can make a difference to some players but I’m not too fazed. I just try to get on with the job and play my cricket as I normally would, whether or not there are cameras. I’m comfortable with it.
You had brief appearances for the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and Jozi Stars in the 2018 MSL. Was it validating to get a full- time stint with the Heat in 2019?
It was quite disappointing not to be bought by a franchise in 2018. Being with a squad from the start this year made it worth it in terms of all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Us cricketers who are not necessarily as well-known as others, always want that opportunity to show people what we can do. I’m pleased with the security I have, to know where I’m going. Finding a comfort zone in a given environment also plays an important role.
What was it like working with Durban Heat head coach Gary Kirsten?
He has an incredible amount of coaching experience and, for my role specifically, it allows me to play with a lot of freedom. He always backs you as a player and has a way with words that helps you understand your role, and how to go about it. Gary, of course, doesn’t work with us for a whole season. He’s around for a tournament which is only five weeks long. It’s not that other coaches don’t let you play with freedom, it’s just that Gary knows how to get the best out of you in a shorter period of time. I’ve worked with a few coaches and he is right up there with the best.
Despite recognition in the MSL, you are still on the fringes of Lions selection. How do you manage your expectations?
It is difficult at times. Expectations of yourself as a player grows with every higher level of cricket. You set goals for the season and when it takes a while to get there, it gets tough. It’s frustrating, but when the opportunity comes, you are hopeful you can take it. Selection isn’t something you can control. You can put in the performances on the field, but it is up to the selection panel and coaches whether you will get picked – be it for North West, the Lions or wherever. I try to not let it affect me. If you read too much into everything that doesn’t go your way, it could lead to a downward spiral. The way to manage that is to just stay in control of what you can control. Then the rest will follow.
Are the Lions helping you to manage your expectations and ambitions, too?
While I haven’t been in the Lions XI a lot, I have been provided with clarity and communication. That’s been done well from the coaching and management staff. Again, there’s security and a less frustrating environment. We know where we stand. We know what’s happening and we know where we fit in when or if required. That’s the sort of environment you want to be in.
You have captaincy experience for North West and the University Sport South Africa team. Is leadership something you desire?
Captaincy has never been something I mind doing. But that said, I know there are guys who want to be captain and do it well – and like doing it. I think, though, there is a lot of space for leading the team, even if you are not the official captain on the day. I’m happy to be captain, but it’s not something I have to be. I like to lead by example, be it as captain on the day or not. I’ve learned from a few good captains too.
You also bowl off-spin. Do you view yourself as a genuine batting all-rounder?
Of course it’s always handy when you have a second skill in your arsenal. My off-spin is something I’m working hard at. Getting in some overs and taking wickets can improve what the selectors see in you, which is always good. I’m working on it and actively seeking the advice of those who I think are good off-spinners.
What do you do when not playing cricket?
Play golf or pretend to study.
What is the most embarrassing moment you’ve had on the field?
You feel pretty small when you drop a ball off Dwaine Pretorius’ bowling.
What is the most memorable moment of your debut for the Lions?
Facing Marchant de Lange and Ryan McLaren as I got in. It was pretty special coming up against two ex-Proteas cricketers.
What is your favourite meal?
I enjoy a nice steak whenever I can.
Which retired cricket player would you most like to have played against?
Australians Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist – both were hard-hitting left-handed batsmen and players I idolised from a young age.