“I’m done trying to impress people!”
That’s Dane Piedt’s stance on life right now. Not just cricket. But his entire mantra, which has seen the 33-year-old make the journey all the way from North Carolina in the United States of America to return to Bloemfontein of all places.
If anyone is mistaking the comment above for a new-found American brashness though, then they surely were not well-acquainted with the Cape Town-born off-spinner before he packed his bags for the US three years ago.
Piedt has always run his own race. And this attitude has not always endeared him to the conservative establishment of South African cricket.
“I never quite enjoyed my first stint playing for South Africa for various reasons,” said Piedt, who has previously played nine Test matches for the Proteas.
“But moving to the United States has helped my game a lot. I’m a bit more mature now. Not as crazy as I used to be. I have a different perspective on cricket and life now.
“I know I’m a Coloured boy from Cape Town, so we do live a bit on the edge of the extremist line, but if you grow up conservatively, for us, as South Africans, to see how they are free to express themselves is an eye opener.
“I had to go to America to realise that you are literally self-made. That’s the mentality.”
But what was the carrot that enticed Piedt to leave his family, which now also consists of a 20-month old son and wife behind in the US to chase a dream of playing for the Proteas again when it seemed like he was aiming to qualify for Stars and Stripes?
“When you have represented your country, like I have, I simply can’t fathom supporting another nation. You have a different outlook to who you are representing. It’s not just about me anymore,” Piedt said.
“It’s about those other Coloured ‘laaities’ in Ravensmead or Lansdowne that see me bowl on TV, and say ‘I want to bowl like Dane Piedt’. These are the moments that give me goosebumps because you realise the impact you have on your South African people.
“And to be brutally honest, the reason for me being back is that there aren’t a whole lot of coaches that I would do this for. There are only a very small group of people I would have done this for and Shuks (Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad) is one of them.
“Shuks actually screenshotted the Ashes conversation from Google between Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, and sent it to me. Followed by “NZ?”
“I thought it was typically Shuks taking the piss. I can’t tell you what my response to him was here … there are kids who will read this interview. Let’s just say I have lost none of my uniquely Capetonian slang.
“But then he explained to me what was happening down here with the fixture clashes between the New Zealand tour and SA20 and my competitive juices started flowing again.”
Although Conrad’s hand was forced due to the majority of his Proteas Test squad set to be unavailable for the tour to New Zealand next month because of the clash with SA20 back home and the lack of high-quality spinner seemingly nowhere to be found, it remained an almighty gamble to recall an ageing off-spinner that had only played white-ball cricket for the past three years, with the highest level being the inaugural Major League Cricket T20 tournament.
But Conrad knew Piedt’s mentality. Once he knew that he was being fully backed, Piedt would quickly find his groove.
And the results have been nothing less than sensational. Five wickets on his Knights debut ensued before he delivered an 11-wicket match haul to help South Africa ‘A’ level the series against their West Indies counterparts on Friday in East London.
“I was able to adjust to the MLC a lot quicker than the other guys because I had played international cricket. It’s like a switch just gets flicked. Whereas the other guys, they were not quite sure what to expect,” Piedt said.
“But for me, it was brilliant, because you were playing against guys where you know you need to be right on top of your game.
“I’ve also looked after myself okay .. ish. I do love a beer and eating unhealthy things. But my body has held up nicely. My shoulder operation that I had nine years ago hasn’t affected me like I thought it would. Everything is intact. It’s onwards and upwards from here.”
Piedt will continue to live in the United States - he has residency and his son was born there - but for now he is fully committed to reliving the dream of playing for the Proteas again.
And who knows, we might even see him back in the Test baggy green cap at his beloved Newlands in the New Year Test against India before the touring party to New Zealand is even named.