Columnists 27.4.2017 01:20 pm

Eclipse of a career which could have soared

Lonwabo Tsotsobe hasn't played any competitive cricket since late 2015. Photo: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe hasn't played any competitive cricket since late 2015. Photo: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images.

Over the past few days, our sport has mourned the death of two of its beloved sons, former football coach Jeff Butler and iconic boxing trainer Nick Durandt.

But in no disrespect to these two gentlemen, I shed a tear for a different reason. Personally, I mourned the death of Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s cricket career. Well, to be technically correct, the imminent death, because he still has time to respond to the damning match-fixing allegations he was charged with on Monday.

Unlike Butler and Durandt, who we can safely say scaled the highest mountains their chosen career paths could offer, the richly-talented left-arm seamer didn’t, and such wasted potential saddens me.

Had things been different, Tsotsobe could have easily retired from international cricket at the age of 33, with over 200 one-dayers and well over 50 Tests for the Proteas behind his name, taken hundreds of wickets and featured on all South Africa’s all-time lists for leading international wickettakers.

But sadly, less than two months after his 33rd birthday his career was shut down, with the leftie stuck on only 61 ODIs and a mere five Tests forever. And while these achievements might still be very credible, his once-proud distinction of becoming the world’s leading bowler in ODIs will always be shrouded by a match-fixing mess.

And to think Tsotsobe had it all, starting with the sporting genes he shares with his sister Nomsebenzi who was the captain of the first women’s Springbok rugby team.

When he emulated Makhaya Ntini during his Proteas debut in Perth 11 years after the Mdingi Express helped South Africa beat the Aussies at the Waca, his future looked bright. But being a Xhosa-speaking quick who hails from the Eastern Cape and sharing a Perth debut for the Proteas was just about the only things the left-armer had in common with the great Ntini.

Unlike Ntini, who was renowned for his work-rate based on his supreme fitness, the laid-back Lopsy’s conditioning left much too be desired. From what I gather, he wasn’t the most hard-working player off the field and got distracted by the night life.

His inability to generate real pace was often spoken about during his time with the national side, but I can’t help but wonder how hard he was prepared to work to overcome or sidestep the problem. Blessed with his talent, surely he had enough other weapons in his arsenal.

But maybe Essex coach Paul Grayson summed it up perfectly after his ill-fated stint in England in 2011 when Tsotsobe left the county after his rant on Twitter. “His work rate and attitude hasn’t been up to the standard I would expect of someone with his experience as an international cricketer,” Grayson said. “From my point of view he’s only got himself to blame.’’

And six years on, even though the topic has changed from conditioning to corruption, the same rings true. How sad is that?

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