Ferdi Boer: It takes vision to hit a cricket ball you can’t see
Not even AB de Villiers has hit 200 in a T20 game, but a blind South African has accomplished the amazing feat
Chris Gayle doesn’t know how it feels to be Ferdi Boer. Neither do AB de Villiers, David Warner, Brendon McCullum, nor Quinton de Kock.
All of those better known players have scored a century in a T20. None of them has yet touched 200.
Boer did in Pretoria on Tuesday, when he swashed and buckled 205 for Boland against Free State, smashing his runs off 78 balls and reaping 180 of them in fours and sixes.
No bowler could tame him: he was run out off the last ball of the innings to end an opening stand of 319 he shared with Sheperd Mangxaba, who scored a mere 97 while all that was going on at the other end.
The Free Staters, who probably will never be the same, should be forgiven their inadequate reply of 155/6, which clinched victory for Boland by 164 runs.
Boer topped 200 runs facing what amounts to 13 overs. Think about that for a moment. Close your eyes if you need to. Best you do, because Boer is blind.
That’s right. The player who has gone where none of those bigger names have been can’t see the ball. Ever.
He can hear it coming his way thanks to the noise made by the ball-bearings inside the bigger ball used in blind cricket, where all bowling is underarm.
The standard of that bowling is below what Gayle and the gang face, although you might differ if you watch enough Indian Premier League games.
The same goes for the fielding, where players classified B1 – totally blind – are allowed to claim a catch on the bounce, and the boundaries are shorter than for sighted cricket.
Never mind that, any of it. The fact is Boer, a B2-classified player, has broken a mould: he has scored more runs in a single T20 innings than a host of more illustrious players. That he has done so despite being in a world of darkness is almost besides the point.
But it isn’t, and that represents a marketing triumph for blind cricket, which is under-resourced and struggles for funding.
“The poor man doesn’t know what’s hit him,” Taariq Smit, Blind Cricket SA’s (BCSA) social media consultant and media liaison officer, said of Boer’s response to the fuss that has followed his feat. “For him, it was just another innings.”
But not for BCSA. Smit posted a short video interview with Boer on Twitter. Hours later it had earned almost 6,900 views – a smidgen if you’re Gayle, plenty if you’re involved in blind cricket in SA, where the game has nowhere near the stature it enjoys in Asia, England and Australia.
“We’ve worked really hard to get more coverage for this tournament, and we’ve had more than usual,” Smit said. “More than for the 2014 World Cup, which was played in SA. Something like this happens and everyone wants to talk about it.”
Before Boer made a plan, how many knew that BCSA’s national T20 championship was underway?
Probably about as many who knew that SA won the inaugural blind World Cup in 1998, lost in the final in 2002, and reached the semifinals in 2014.
BCSA’s T20 tournament featured six provinces – two others couldn’t find the money to make it to Pretoria – drawn from SA’s estimated 140 blind cricketers.
Happily, more South Africans will have taken notice of blind cricket and, perhaps, will keep an eye out for how the team performs at the 2021 World Cup.
Yes, that’s a blind joke. And there are too many more where that came from.
Asked to confirm that umpires in blind cricket are sighted, Smit said, “Yes they are, but you know how they say the umpires are always blind …”
And how can coaches who admonish erring batsmen by telling them to “keep your eye on the ball, dammit” be taken seriously? Those batsmen might have two words for them – Ferdi and Boer.
The joke’s on the sighted in a video of Chris Morris, during a demonstration at Centurion featuring blind players, trying to bat while wearing glasses that reduce his vision to B1 level.
To see one of cricket’s most coordinated athletes flail about like a drunk in a hurricane makes you wonder who should be called disabled or challenged or differently abled, or however those who squirm at the idea that not all of us are created equal would prefer the blind to be euphemised.
A blind friend of many beers standing, the amazing Dean du Plessis, commentates on cricket and writes long and pithy analysis pieces on his cellphone.
Du Plessis tells bowlers apart by the sound their footfalls make as captured by the stump microphones on their approach the crease, and he is eerily accurate at pinpointing where a stroke has gone on the field, and how quickly, just by the kind of crack the ball makes off the bat.
His head is filled with all sorts of facts and figures the rest of us have to look up, down to a level of detail that parses lunch scores from tea scores from stumps scores and separates bowlers’ performances into spells.
“Good to see you again,” Du Plessis booms whenever we run into each other.
Once, in the press box at Harare Sports Club, the ever chatty Du Plessis was warming to the idea of having his biography written. He was casting about for a title when a suggestion came from the other side of the room: “You should call it, ‘I Never Saw It Coming’.”
A cringing silence fell over the scene, but only for the nanosecond it took Du Plessis to throw back his head and laugh the stat-crammed thing just about clean off his shoulders.
At stumps that day he told no one in particular, as he invariably does: “Let’s go get blind drunk.”
People like Gayle, De Villiers, Warner, McCullum and De Kock might not see the funny side of all that, just like they probably wouldn’t see what I did there.
You need vision to do so, and to hit a cricket ball you can’t see, and people like Boer and Du Plessis have it.
Their stream of consciousness is crystal clear.