Share a laugh with Tony de Zorzi: Cricket is tough enough, so why not? | Cricket - Hindustan Times

Share a laugh with Tony de Zorzi: Cricket is tough enough, so why not?

Jan 03, 2024 02:03 PM IST

Tony de Zarzi a relatively new face in international cricket, garnering attention for his impressive batting skills.

The dreadlocks bear a striking resemblance to Bob Marley, the tattoos on his bulging biceps could easily help him pass off as an MMA fighter but the most striking part of Tony de Zorzi's personality is his ability to laugh at himself even as he scores important runs for South Africa. The 26-year-old left-hander is pretty new to international cricket but is inviting attention not just for his flair with the willow but also for his knack of finding all things funny in a routine exercise like facing throw-downs during practice.

South Africa's Tony de Zorzi runs on the field during the first Test(AFP)
South Africa's Tony de Zorzi runs on the field during the first Test(AFP)

"I should have been a boxer (for) the way I punched that," he says in one of his instagram reels documenting a net session which was, according to him, focussed on blocking deliveries on a supposedly flat deck.

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Born to an Italian mother and a Nigerian father, De Zorzi scored his first international hundred recently against India in an ODI and also an 81 against the same opposition in the following game.

"Cricket is tough enough already and you are training to be perfect but as much as professionals we are, we make mistakes in games and nets," he explained to PTI in an exclusive interview. "(It's an) opportunity to see what mistakes I made at training and if it brings in a bit of laughter and jokes for guys around and they can relate to my stuff, then it's great," the new Proteas star said.

De Zorzi has played just three Tests and five ODIs and he considers it special to have faced a star-studded team like India so early in his international career.

"It's been a special experience for me. Doing well against India at the start of my career, being on the field with some of the guys you watch on TV and now you are playing against them. Really enjoyed it," De Zorzi said.

'Pray hard, play harder and enjoy' are his life's mantras as he doesn't want self doubt to ever creep into his system.

"There's been a lot of hard work put in yards, trying to enjoy myself and I pray in the morning and I feel the day is my day. So, no reason to doubt yourself," De Zorzi said with confidence.

De Zorzi wouldn't mind being picked by Royal Challengers Bangalore in a future IPL auction as it would give him a chance to rub shoulders with Virat Kohli. But he is happiest when he is making insta and Tik Tok reels having a good laugh at himself and his batting.

"(It's) just a way of expressing myself, to be honest. A way to learn things like editing and that's why I got into it. I can't draw or write poems so that's my outlet," De Zorzi said.

A former South Africa Under-19 skipper, De Zorzi was also selected for a provincial rugby tournament and had a choice to make about his sporting career. Rugby's loss became cricket's gain. So when did he take a decision?

"Mine was in high school when there was a provincial rugby and SA U-19. A decision had to be made which tournament to go to. My mom told me cricket was the game where I would be able to be myself and I just felt there could be more longevity. In rugby, you can get injured and I didn't want to get injured. It's tough work, what these guys do," he said.

At the Under-19 World Cup, his best moment was when he saw the then junior India coach Rahul Dravid and star-in-making Rishabh Pant in a lift.

"We had a few guys in this team, who played in that U-19 World Cup (2016). Myself, Wiaan Mulder and we didn't do too well as a team. There was a lot of learning about what we need to do to get on to that level," De Zorzi had assessed back then.

Amid the on-field disappointments, running into Dravid and Pant in a lift was a highlight for De Zorzi.

"One thing that he (Dravid) won't remember is me and our coach Lawrence were going for a press conference. As we stepped into the lift, we saw Rahul Dravid and Rishabh (Pant), who I think had an IPL contract. It was exciting, I thought if we could beat them," he recollected.

Talking about his personal journey, De Zorzi said his was a very routine middle class upbringing, devoid of any dramatic story.

"No, I didn't have a crazy childhood or a cool comeback story but I just had a normal middle class childhood. You can just try to better yourself," he stated matter of factly.

But struggles aren't always financial. They are also there as one embarks on a journey to discover the self.

"Everyone have their own struggles and mine is no different. I was never like Quinton (De Kock) and KG (Kagiso Rabada) who were like superstars from age group cricket. I had to find my own way of playing. My personality you can say," he said.

De Zorzi had to switch teams to find his calling

"I went to different provinces. I went to Pretoria, Cape Town, which was a big move for me, working with Ashwell Prince, so I took a long time to find my personality as a cricketer and I suppose everything happens in God's time and it happens when it's meant to be," he smiled.

He scored 28 in the Centurion Test against India but was involved in a 90 plus stand with Dean Elgar, who struck 185. De Zorzi it wasn't easy to face the likes of Jsprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj.

"Tough wicket and the Indian attack with Bumrah and Siraj is really skilful. That partnership with Dean, we couldn't go bang bang straightaway. (I) would have loved to have kicked off but it wasn't my day. It was Dean's day," he conceded.

So where does he see himself five to seven years' time. "I would like to be in a position where I can take care of my mom so that we can live comfortable lives. That I stay true to my process and that I don't change too much. My old friends, they see me as the same person and I battle it out for South Africa," the new age "Funny Man" of Proteas cricket conceded.

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