How thick-skinned ‘Fudge’ eventually won over SA cricket

Farhaan Behardien of the Titans at the end of his last match during the Momentum One Day Cup match between Multiply Titans and VKB Knights at SuperSport Park on March 15, 2020 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Farhaan Behardien, who ends a 14-year association with local cricket, wasn’t always appreciated, but turned into of the franchise system’s best player.

Batting in the middle-order in limited-overs cricket is a bit like putting all your eggs in one basket because of the risks that have to be taken and Farhaan Behardien says he has developed a “thick skin” after 14 years in the job.

The 36-year-old bade an emotional farewell to his beloved Titans at the weekend when they were eliminated from Momentum One-Day Cup contention and Behardien will now take up a two-year Kolpak deal with Durham.

Despite being one of the best finishers in South African cricket history, Behardien knows he has a love/hate relationship with the local public.

“I guess I was a player people loved to hate but that middle-order role is tough, you have to get your team over the line and you get very little reward for high risk. You’ve got to have a thick skin. Maybe my contributions were not always seen, but I’m very proud of my career. I played 97 times in all for my country and I went to a couple of World Cups.

“One always would like to do a bit better, but I did everything in my career besides play Test cricket. I so badly wanted to go to the 2019 World Cup but I put pressure on myself, had a poor MSL the season before, fell out of favour and my form dipped. So I let that dream go and really enjoyed the last 12 months, I feel like my game has become a lot more sound,” Behardien said.

Farhaan Behardien of the Proteas during the 1st KFC T20 International match between South Africa and India at Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on February 18, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The Behardien story is one of determination to initially make his mark, having failed to earn a contract in the Cape where he grew up, and then the cultivation of the skills and composure that made him one of the most reliable matchwinners in the country.

He played 98 four-day games for the Titans, scoring 5835 runs with nine centuries, at an average of 39.96, being an integral part of the team that won five titles.

In 50-over cricket he averaged 41.33 with four hundreds and played a key role in the six championships won by the Titans, while his T20 figures – an average of 41.54 at a strike-rate of around 130 – are unmatched locally.

Little wonder then that his franchise won five T20 titles during his time at Centurion, including three in a row from 2015/16.

“I was young and naïve when I came out of school and I only got my first contract when I was 22. It was from Richard Pybus, he knew I could be a matchwinner, he knew how to teach youngsters and he has one of the most brilliant minds. Matthew Maynard then gave me the confidence to express myself, Rob Walter built the team culture and Mark Boucher has instilled intensity, a hardness, a mean attitude that wants to dominate. He has refined my game.

“But it shows that if you want it bad enough then you can make it, even if you do get lost in the pipeline and start playing professional cricket at 25 or 26, you can still play for 10 years. The game has changed and moved away from the traditional schools, although they still give you a stepping stone. But cricketers mature at different ages and junior representative cricket is not as important,” the Westerford High School product who did not make any Western Province junior teams, said.

“It was nice to play my last game at my home ground and winning 16 trophies since 2006 makes it a very successful career, plus six years playing for South Africa. I got to play with some of the best players in our history, in a very proud era of the Titans, and I’m one of the last players to still be around from 2006, along with Dean Elgar. It’s been hard work so I’m very proud, but that chapter has now been closed for certain,” Behardien said.

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