Pienaar, the Bok-skipper replied: “David, we didn’t have 62 000 fans, we had 43 million South Africans (supporting us).”
When Sonwadile Bidla and his South African team depart for India on Friday evening (27th January) and embark on the epic quest to win the T20 Blind Cricket World Cup, they will have the support of more than 52 million South Africans cheering for them.
The blind South African team has done what no other senior cricket team has achieved before or after them. They won a 40 over Cricket World Cup for blind persons in 1998 and also reached the final in 2002.
Western Province is very well represented in the squad. Six members of the young, exuberant and very dynamic blind team are also members of the Province squad.
Philip Bam, manager of the national team, says South Africa is not in the top tier and not one of the favourites, but is sixth ranked amongst the top ten.
“Yet, we are confident of victory. We have worked hard over two seasons and we boast some great talent. We have won the 40 over event before and the team has a very competitive spirit,” Bam added.
There are some world-class performers in this team. Johan Schroder of Northerns, totally blind, struck a century in a T20 Cricket World Cup in India on a previous occasion. He is also a very useful spinner.
Kenneth Mabela is a middle-order batsman who can damage bowling figures and reputations.
Bam also mentions the fast bowlers Israel Hatttingh and Lesiba Mathapo who will spearhead the attack as potential match winners.
Armand Bam, president of Blind Cricket South Africa, said South Africa has been training the last two seasons to reach the top of the game and the team feels confident that they can lift the cup.
A hallmark of the team is the many youthful faces and their confidence and positivity, he said.
The team will kick-off their World Cup campaign against Bangladesh in Delhi on 2nd February, will clash with Australia on 3rd February at the same venue and will take on England’s best on the 4th February.
The final will be contested at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on the 12th February.
“Our best wishes accompany the blind South African cricket team for the global event. We are extremely proud that Western Province is so well represented and that the bulk of the team comes from this region, which is a testimony to the unwavering commitment of the Blind Western Province committee.
“But right now, the focus is on the national team and on them repeating history by emulating the feats of their predecessors of 1998,” said Nabeal Dien, chief executive officer of the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA).
“Amateur cricket is the lifeblood of any franchise. Our Western Province women’s team has been a conveyor belt of note for the national team, and the blind Western Province team is also a nursery for the national team. It is exciting to see a team full of youthful achievers who will travel to India. We trust they can bring back the spoils and make South Africa proud,” said Beresford Williams, president of the WPCA.