Why Ottniel Baartman’s Proteas call-up was a complete surprise

Ottniel Baartman of the Dolphins during the CSA 4-Day 2020/21 match between Dolphins and Titans at the Kingsmead Stadium in Durban

Over the past few years, the Oudtshoorn-born seamer Ottniel Baartman has quietly gone about forging a reputation as one of the most distinguished white-ball bowlers in the country. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Dec 6, 2023


Where Ottniel Baartman hails from, ostriches are more famous than people. And particularly cricketers.

But over the past few years, the Oudtshoorn-born seamer has quietly gone about forging a reputation as one of the most distinguished white-ball bowlers in the country.

Baartman, 30, was ultimately rewarded for his consistency - he averages 23.11 per wicket in List A cricket and 17.39 in T20s -  when he received a maiden call-up to the Proteas T20I and ODI squads for the upcoming series against India this week.

“It was quite surprising,” Baartman told Independent Media. “I didn’t expect it all. I was just focusing on red-ball cricket and didn’t expect to feature in the series at all.

“It really came as a surprise to me. It was only after a chat with Immy (Dolphins coach Imraan Khan) on the flight on Friday morning that I had some idea, and then Rob (Walter, Proteas coach) called me to confirm it. I’m very happy.”

Long journey

It has been a long and arduous journey for Baartman to the national team. Even before making his provincial debut for South Western Districts back in 2014, he had to overcome many obstacles to realise the dream of becoming a professional cricketer with the Knights in Bloemfontein before swapping the City of Roses for Durban and the Dolphins three seasons ago.

“My journey starts there in small town Oudsthoorn. “SWD is a small town. Nobody really looks that way.

“I lived my whole life in 10th avenue in the family house. My sister, mum and I actually stayed in the back entrance of the family house. That’s where my journey started.

“But it has actually been an exciting journey for me coming through the ranks. Starting at SWD, moving to Bloem and then to Durban. When I moved to Bloem it was quite exciting because it was my first franchise deal, but it was also tough. I was a laaitie away from home for the first time. It wasn’t easy, but the support I got from my family got me through it.”

One of the hardest workers on the domestic circuit - he was currently at the gym topping up his fitness plans - really came to the fore during last season’s maiden Betway SA20 season though.

Baartman was an integral part of the Sunrisers Eastern Cape championship-winning team, where he claimed 12 wickets in the tournament.

Exposure in SA20

“The exposure you get in SA20 is just brilliant. You play against the best guys in the world. It tests your character, your mental aspects, because you’re playing against good quality batters,” he said.

“I remember the final also. It was something special. I think that will also help me adjust. It was quite noisy that day. I had never played before a crowd like that and at the start I was quite nervous. But as soon as you start, you get into your work, and you actually forget about the noise and the crowd and you just focus on what you do.”

Baartman will certainly be calling on those experiences when he debuts for the Proteas against the juggernaut India T20I team, with the three-match series starting at Kingsmead on Sunday.

Although India's legendary duo Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are being rested for the white-ball portion, the tourists still boast Indian Premier League superstars such as captain Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Khan, Shubnam Gill and Ravi Jadeja.

“They are a good quality side regardless of who you bowl to. They have some of the best batters in the world, so it doesn’t matter, they all can put you under pressure. It will certainly be a test of character,” Baartman said.