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In a dark place

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Despite not making it into the 2019 World Cup squad Reeza Hendricks has been described as one of a handful of players in South Africa you'd be happy to pay money to watch

Reeza Hendricks. Picture: BackpagePix

There is a story about Michael Jordan not being picked for his high school basketball squad. Jordan, the story goes, looked at the 15-player basketball squad that was posted on a wall at his high school, turned around, went home, locked himself in his bedroom and cried.

“It was embarrassing not making the team,” Jordan would say later.

Jordan would use that axing as fuel for a good portion of his time at university and even the early days of professional career with the Chicago Bulls. “Whenever I was working out and got tired and gured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it,” Jordan would explain. “That usually got me going again.”

That disappointment, happened when Jordan was still a kid. He had plenty of time on his side. He could go on and make the high school team the next year, get through a legendary college career with the University of North Carolina, go onto to win six NBA championships with the Bulls and of course an Olympic gold medal as part of the United States ‘Dream Team’ at the 1992 Olympic Games.

Reeza Hendricks will be 30 in August.

For now looking four years into the future and even thinking about making the World Cup squad in 2023 is not something he can consider. In fact, he is still trying to deal with the disappointment of not cracking it into the 15-man Protea squad for the World Cup that starts in England at the end of the month.

“Really disappointing,” was how Hendricks described to the SportsLive Report show this week about his reaction to being dropped. “I was in a dark place.”

Elite sport is a harsh environment. The intense disappointment, sense of failure is something that very few viewers and spectators can ever truly grasp. In Hendricks’ case, the World Cup had become a very realistic goal this summer.

He has long been one of the most talented batsmen this country has produced. He is, as many former players have said, one of a handful of players in SA, you’d be happy to pay money to watch.

To that style, he’s added grit in the last few seasons since making the move from Kimberley to Johannesburg to play for the Highveld Lions and in the last two seasons, in particular, he’s shown a level of consistency across the different formats that made him a leading candidate for the World Cup.

But it was not to be. The national selectors stuck with Hashim Amla, understandably backing his experience to help him come out of his current slump and ultimately it came down to a choice for them between Hendricks and Aiden Markram. The latter was deemed more dynamic – with the added element of his off-spin.

Hendricks was understandably crushed, left in that “dark place,” where only his closest relatives and friends would have been allowed or even understood how he felt.

A few hours after SA’s World Cup squad was announced, Hendricks had to play a T20 game for the Lions. Under the spotlight, in a televised game, he made his highest score of the competition. “I don’t know how I did that, to be honest, maybe it was a case of taking out some anger on the ball,” he smiled.

At that point, the disappointment hadn’t registered properly. It would over the next few days.

It’s hard to know what impact this will have on Hendricks further down the line.

Hopefully this axing doesn’t define his career and even though older than Jordan was when he was able to fuel his career following the disappointment of being dropped, Hendricks might still be able to do
the same.