The new Proteas star, who helped clinch the ODI series against the Aussies, has already shown immense mental resolve as he starts his international career.
Instead, he was about 70km away in Hartbeespoort for a gig that was arguably even more important than donning the bright yellow that is South Africa’s kit in the shortest form of the game – he was best man and MC at elder brother Andre’s wedding.
There was no way Janneman would’ve tried to wriggle his way out of that honour, even if an accomplished, cricket-mad family like the Malans would understand that call-up better than anyone else.
(Photo by Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images)
After all, all three siblings are professional cricketers, with the eldest, Pieter, making his Test debut against England earlier this year.
Yet all the backyard cricket played at 64 Suiderkruis Street in Nelspruit did more than just mould two international players (to date).
ALSO READ: There’s no sibling rivalry in the talented Malan family
It fostered an unbelievably tight bond between the brothers, who remain each other’s biggest supporters.
Janneman, this writer has been reliably informed, was brilliant at the reception.
“He was just himself. There wasn’t a hint of him being different that evening. You wouldn’t have thought this was a guy who was making his international debut the very next day,” a family member recounts.
That didn’t mean he let himself go.
In fact, Janneman showed immense discipline in just drinking coffee and Red Bulls.
However, even if he was content with his preparation for a potent Pakistani attack that included teenage sensation Shaheen Shah Afridi, canny spinner Imad Wasim and the crafty Hasan Ali, his brothers felt they owed him one last training session.
It was unorthodox to say the least.
On the lawn of their overnight accommodation, a lawn chair served as the stumps, four umbrellas were hastily placed to resemble fielders and a tennis ball was wrapped in tape to help it swing.
Janneman took out his trusty Kookaburra and hit a few balls.
Later that day, the then 22-year-old made a 31-ball 33 as the Proteas clinched the T20 series.
Just over a year later, Malan channelled the discipline and adaptability of Hartbeespoort to score a match-winning, unbeaten 129 against the Australians in Bloemfontein, leading the hosts to a much-needed ODI series triumph.
To understand why his knock was so magical, one must consider why the Cape Cobras star is in the national setup.
Malan is undeniably the most gifted player of the three brothers, an instinctive stroke-maker with a technique that works for him, not pedantic coaches.
He averages 50.36 in first-class cricket, 45 in 50-overs and 33 in T20s.
He’s not a batsman who’s comfortable becoming bogged down, evidenced by a fluent strike rate of almost 65 in the red-ball format, as as well as 86 and 135 in List A and T20s respectively.
Imagine then having to walk out onto the Manguang Oval with the brief of spearheading a record chase on a slow pitch, to be prudent when such an approach goes against your natural game.
Imagine having that tension being escalated by a first-ball duck on ODI debut three days earlier, a toe-crushing Mitchell Starc yorker, and then having to face up to the very same bowler.
This time though, in more trying circumstances, Janneman could count on a few adopted elder “brothers”.
Janneman Malan of South Africa celebrating 100 runs during the 2nd One Day International match between South Africa and Australia at Mangaung Oval on March 04, 2020 in Bloemfontein, South Africa. (Photo by Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images)
“A few senior guys put their arms around me,” he said.
“At this level, it is mostly mental, because all of us can play the game. They did their best to help me get over it and help me get in a good space. It’s a good squad to be around and everyone is gelling nicely. That definitely made me feel a bit more at ease.”
Emboldened, Malan played an innings memorable exactly because, for the majority of its construction, it was un-typical.
His fifty came off 68 deliveries, hitting just two sixes and a four as he smartly exploited a large outfield to pick up twos.
It took him 124 balls to reach his century, the boundary tally only increasing by three.
Only after that milestone was reached did Malan cut loose to give South African cricket (and the world) a glimpse of the dashing, unorthodox run-machine who has lit up franchise cricket.
Afterwards, in front of a small media contingent, he spoke as eloquently as he did at Andre’s wedding.
“As a youngster coming in it was motivating to show that we’re not a one-man team. The other batters were also driven by that.
“It’s most young cricketers’ dream to win a game for your country. Compliments to everyone batting with me who kept me nice and calm and also to our bowlers for how they performed in the death overs.”
Just like that caffeine-filled evening in the North West, Janneman Malan played a starring role in Bloemfontein too.
But he’s the last one who would recognise it.
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