[by Wouter Pienaar, Potchefstroom Herald] Call him what you will. Barbados, Baydo, Ekse, Laanie, Skip… he is the guy you can trust to fight for you until the very end – that is just the ethos of this man. Hard work, determination and sacrifice in succeeding and playing the game of cricket has always been the foundation of current North West Dragons captain, Brady Barends.
His journey to 109 first-class matches started in Durban’s Sydenham Flats at the age of six. Now, 25 years later, he finds himself at Senwes Park in the heart of Potchefstroom, as an accomplished all-rounder with 235 first-class wickets to his name, at an average of just under 30.
Brady Barends. caught up with Barends during the lockdown period and off-season when the Dragons captain has been doing his best to keep fit and work on his cooking. ''Where I stay, there is a lot of open land, so I’ve been keeping fit with a few runs and some body workouts. My cooking has improved and I tried to improve my golf swing – but that fell out the window,” he laughs.
The friendly, approachable all-rounder is all business when it comes to cricket – a game he discovered and fell in love with back in Durban.
“We stayed out in flats in Sydenham, where there were about 50 families. You can imagine the number of children there was. So, every day, there would be a cricket game in the parking lot.”
“I went to Durban High School. My best memory was winning the night series when we beat Maritzburg College in the final. It was a great game,” remembers Barends.
During his school cricketing years, he learnt to train hard and be the best at a specific skill. If you didn’t perform, you would easily be re- placed. Performance was what opened doors.
“I had a first-team coach by the name of Mr Norton. This bloke taught me how to be hard and find out about “your game on your own”. You get the job done, or he gets someone else. Old-school guy, but a legend! I went to the Dolphins Academy when I finished school. My parents wanted me to study, but I wasn’t having any of it. So, I said to myself, I’ve got to try and make it in this game and earn an income,” states Barends.
“I did three years at the academy and, in my third year, I realised I could maybe make it. I worked my big bum off, that’s what I can tell you.”
Barends eventually made his first-class and A-list debuts for KZN Inland in the 2009/10 season. Incidentally, he made his A-list debut in Bloem on his 21st birthday.
“After that game, we flew out to SWD and I was told I was playing the one-day match again. So, we fly out to George. We couldn’t land because the runway was too wet, so we had to fly back to Cape Town. We waited at the airport to hear how we were getting to SWD for the match. Eventually, this taxi with a trailer, with some of my cricket bags, picks us up with a 4×4. (now this is at like 11 pm and we are bowling the first ball the next morning at 10 am!)”
“We drive to a B and B in Paarl, sleep for about three hours, wake up and drive through to SWD. In the process, we almost get taken out by a truck. We get there and get put in to bat. I’m not playing, so I decide to have a sleep; only to be woken up and told I’m playing. One of the guys was an overseas player and he wasn’t allowed to play. I ended up taking three wickets, but we lost in a day and a half. I will never forget that!” says Barends, as he shares some of his top cricketing memories.
Barends soon decided to move to the North West after hearing that KZN Inland wanted to drop him from the team.
“We played NW Dragons in Potch and they rolled us for 27, I think, (I opened the batting that game),” laughs Barends. “I didn’t get on with the coach at that time and I felt I needed a change. I remember travelling to Bloem from Potch because that was the next game and I was at the back of the bus with Bradley Moses and Yusuf Abdulla. Yusuf told me he had spoken to the coach at the time and they want to stok me from the team (Durban slang for “get rid of me”). I spoke to NW Dragons captain, Brett Pelsur the day before that and told him I’m keen to come through. I got off the bus and dropped Monty Jacobs (NW Dragons coach) a message. He contacted me a week later and the rest is history,” he says.
According to Barends, the NW Dragons has given him the freedom to express himself and provided a welcoming environment. “The day I arrived, I walked up to the change room and greeted the CEO, but he did not know who I was. That was golden! But the best memory was winning the 50-over competition with the Dragons in 2018.”
Other highlights in his career include figures of 9/68 against Northerns. “I remember that game like it was yesterday. Yoh! I was nicking those guys. My best attribute as a bowler is my control. With the bat, it would have to be my on-drive. I enjoy batting in a troubling situation. I love the challenge of getting us out of trouble and when we seem to be dead and buried.”
Captaincy has also been a feather in Barends’ cap and he has relished the opportunity to be a leader among a young side. “It’s a great privilege to captain the Dragons. We have had some serious players come through the system and some outstanding captains.
''The great part is captaining these youngsters and having an impact on their careers. The challenging part is trying to make them aware of the process, dedication, hard work and sacrifice you have to make to succeed in this game. I sacrificed a bit and I still didn’t make it. So, just making them aware that they’ve got to do a lot more,” explains Barends.
One of his dreams has been to play franchise cricket consistently and represent the Proteas. “What kept me motivated was thinking every day that I was going to become a franchise player, but, unfortunately, it didn’t happen.” Instead, he has taken a different route – being a mentor and solid performer in a Dragons team that has grown in leaps and bounds each year.
“I also say to myself that no one is going to come and take my place. I’m not going to give coach Monty Jacobs or anyone a chance to think they are going to replace me,” he states.
Barends’ team-driven nature comes to the fore in a final question to the Durbanite who has become the Dragons’ Mr Dependable:
Who is his all-time Dragons XI?
“The ground staff, boss!”