Sport is an ultimate reflection of time. It shows you every facet of life- good, bad and plain down ugly. But what it also does is it separates the men from the boys. It throws you at the deep end where you go through a wide range of emotions including a sense of fear and uncertainty around your career that you have carved out with utmost precision and tenacity.
And, the way in which a sportsman responds to such challenges and makes his way back to the top, is what differentiates a great from the not so great. Hardus Viljoen, a skiddy hit-the-deck seamer, has encountered such adversities very early in his career and the fact that he is still around, is a testimony to his temperament and character.
Viljoen, who first came into reckoning during the 2010-11 season where he finished as the second-highest wicket-taker in South Africa‘s Provincial FC tournament, had lost his contract at the age of 21, something that had an immediate impact on his livelihood.
“I lost my cricket contract when I was 21 years old. At that stage, it was quite a big blow because financially it affects you. Although it wasn’t a lot of money, you knew you were getting something for food and stuff,” said Hardus Viljoen in an exclusive interview with KXIP.
When Dale Steyn’s injury proved to be a blessing in disguise for Hardus Viljoen
Undeterred by the setback, Hardus returned to training with the burning ambition of proving his detractors wrong. The fast bowler sought advice from former Proteas great Fannie de Villiers during his ouster from the state team.
De Villiers advice helped Viljoen to improve his pace and with a slice of luck, the right-hander was back into the mix with the contact worth three or four times more than the previous one.
“Dale Steyn (who also represented the Titans) got injured four weeks into the season, so I got the call-up as a replacement. The same guy who had told me a few weeks earlier that I didn’t have a contract extension anymore gave me a new deal that was three or four times greater than what it was before. That’s why my cricketing journey really kicked off,” explained Viljoen with a smile of pride lighting up his face.
After spending a couple of seasons, Viljoen shifted his base to the Highveld Lions where a breakthrough season in 2014-15- 47 wickets at an average of 23.02- propelled him on the doorsteps of the national side.
Viljoen finally made his Test debut during the 2016 home series against England but despite a really good start- he hit a boundary on the very first ball that he faced and followed it up with the wicket of Alastair Cook- Viljoen could not finish well. His figures read 1-92 and with South Africa losing the Test, the fast bowler was dumped from the set-up.
The paucity of opportunities coupled with uncertainty paved way for Viljoen to go down the Kolpak route, signing a three-year deal with Derbyshire. Viljoen was bought by KXIP at the base price of 75 Lakh for the 2019 season. But the fast bowler did not have the best of outings and would be looking to redeem himself in the upcoming edition.
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