Single White Cricketer

Single White Cricketer

Loves shopping, seeks mate for companionship, intimacy

Neil Wagner is a driven man. Since the age of 14 he has dreamed of playing international cricket, but things just kept standing in his way. He wanted to play for the Proteas, but he couldnít. He wants to play for the Black Caps but he canít (yet). Itís all he wants to do. Please New Zealand let this man play international cricket. Oh why wonít you let him play international cricket...

A lot has been written about Neil Wagner and his quest to play cricket for NZ. But, because most of you are salty scarfies who are more interested in helping each other pick out boat shoes than following one proud manís struggle to follow his dream, you wonít have read any of it. So Iíll outline it for you. Itís interesting, I promise.

The South African cricket selectors had identified Wagner as an extremely promising player. He starred in domestic cricket in the Republic. He even got on the field as a substitute fielder for the full South African test team. He was on the way up.

As you may know, sports are a little different in South Africa. Itís all a bit hazy, political and confusing. The official racial quota system has been removed and reinstated at various times. The bottom line is that sometimes players are selected based on the colour of their skin or the difficulty of their upbringing, rather than the way they can swing a cricket ball or how hard they work. Call it a quota system, call it reverse-discrimination, call it social progress, call it what you want. Itís rough if youíre a white guy with some skills.

Fast bowlers nowhere near as good as Neil Wagner have played plenty of times for South Africa in the last four years. He has not. He has been freezing his nuts off in Dunedin since he transferred here in 2008, watching the months tick slowly by until he is eligible to play for New Zealand. He has had no guarantee that this will happen; all heís been able to do is work his saffa butt off with the Otago Volts, get heaps of wickets and hope that the call comes.

Luckily, before he gets too cool for a student magazine, Critic went for a chat. He loosened things up with a dig at his South African accent. ďIíve been working hard on that. Iím still struggling to shake the old Afrikaans accent off but we are getting there.Ē Off the field Wagner is a bit of a shopaholic: ďIím a bit like a girl when it comes to that. Dunedin has a couple of great stores with stuff to offer. Iím a single guy, so I just try to get away from cricket, clear the mind. I go to the movies quite a bit. My all time favourite is The Shawshank Redemption.Ē

On the field Wagner is anything but laidback. ďIíve been timed at 144km/h before, so not express pace. I do try to swing the ball. At the highest level that pace is not going to rush a player or hurt a player, but when you swing it a bit at that pace that brings you into the game. If you bowl it straight theyíre not worried about that at all.Ē
But thatís not all he offers. ďBatting is something Iíve been working very hard on, I want to play as an all-rounder. I feel if Iím a fast bowler who can bat, that is going to give me an advantage.Ē

Dunedin suits Wagnerís style. ďI really love it. The beauty of it being a small place is that every day, whatever you do, you always see a familiar face. Otago cricket has been very good to me.Ē

The politics of South African sport have defined Wagnerís career path. ďWhen youíre young youíre a bit arrogant, you get involved with stuff that you shouldnít really get involved with. Politics definitely played a role in my development. Itís a little bit unfair but you canít do anything about it. South Africa has got a quota system, you have to make the most of it, you canít control it. Itís tough when youíre not allowed to play. When it comes to the point of your skin colour making a difference, it becomes emotional as well.Ē

ďI learned a lot from it. In SA itís a lot about who you know, not who you are. I just want to play cricket and perform. If you keep performing and get picked thatís the way it should be.Ē

ďThatís why I came to NZ. Here, if you perform, you get picked. To know that if you perform then youíre going to get selected, thatís the thing that drives me the most.Ē
Hear that, ladies? A successful, single guy who loves shopping and has a cool accent. Win.
This article first appeared in Issue 2, 2012.
Posted 4:53pm Sunday 4th March 2012 by Gus Gawn.