Two balls were all that Kwena Maphaka needed to make his mark at the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024. He bowled a blistering, inswinging yorker off his second delivery of the event, which stumped West Indies opener Adrian Weir.
As opposed to the calm party he and his older brother Tetelo had organized, what came next was a boisterous punch in the air and a large gathering. Maphaka was engrossed in the event for a brief period as the adrenaline surge overtook him. He would take five wickets at the conclusion of the day, a performance he would accomplish twice more in the coming weeks.
Kwena Maphaka told the ICC, “That one [the spell against the West Indies] is probably closest to my heart.”
“I simply strive to do well in every game, but for me, the one against the West Indies stands out the most. We were playing in our own World Cup and it was the opening game of the tournament. I felt like my spell gave us a great start to the competition. establish the mood.
The instant Maphaka’s jagged inswinger sank into Weir’s boots, the mood was established. It was the climax of what Maphaka saw as the ideal strategy, which was to surprise the batter by getting the new ball to swing as much as possible.
Kwena Maphaka is a big fan of inswingers. Following his final Super Six match, the adolescent from South Africa, who had teasingly expressed his desire to outperform Jasprit Bumrah, observed the Indian quick’s unplayable yorker against Ollie Pope during the Test series in India.
“I believe he pulled up all three stumps. It’s incredible,” remarked Maphaka. He also adds that his greatest weapon is the inswinger. Alongside the current head coach of the South Africa Test squad, Shukri Conrad, he perfected this delivery of the new ball, which has become his trademark.
When Conrad first saw Kwena Maphaka, it was at the under-15 level. The left-arm pacer’s lightning-fast ball swing surprised him. Maphaka was called up into the setup when Conrad was appointed head coach of the South Africa U19 side prior to the previous U19 Men’s CWC. Conrad’s vigilant eyes sharpened the young tearaway’s inswinger.
Kwena Maphaka was brought to the West Indies tournament in 2022 at the age of 16, mostly to help him become used to the surroundings and to mold him into the new ball force that would lead the attack in the following edition.
But in the end, he played and left a significant impression. He has thrived in the current tournament, becoming a talk of the cricket world with his quick rise to become one of the greatest fast bowlers in the competition.
However, this is nothing new for Maphaka. When it came to cricket, he was always well ahead of his peers. He claims, “My parents tell me that when I was two years old, I picked up a cricket ball while playing garden cricket with my brother.”
Taking up cricket as a career at such a young age was not without its hurdles. In addition to the allure of other activities, there is the strain of schoolwork. I would also like to play tennis, hockey, rugby, and athletics, but my love of cricket is what actually gets me past all of the obstacles, distractions, and other traps in the game.”
For Maphaka, it was all about pace in his younger years. He developed into a proficient fast bowler as he went along, developing his signature inswinger and unplayable yorkers.
But Maphaka insists that his greatest attribute is his aggression, which Kagiso Rabada shares as well. Rabada and Maphaka attended St. Stithians School together, and they have a lot in common.
“It’s something that comes very naturally to me,” Maphaka states. At my core, I’m a fierce competitor. It’s probably my best quality. However, it is humble to be compared to someone like KG [Rabada].
Numerous individuals in South Africa and beyond find inspiration in KG due to his approach to cricket and his early accomplishments. I’m making an effort to consider that.
It’s difficult to avoid making comparisons between the young left-arm quick and the legendary Rabada performance from the 2014 tournament, which occurred at the exact same point ten years ago, as the left-arm quick approaches the crucial semi-final matchup against India.
Rabada’s side advanced to the finals of the 2014 tournament in the United Arab Emirates as he dismissed Australia for 150 runs in the semi-finals, claiming six wickets Kwena Maphaka recalls that match quite well.
“I’ve been really motivated to go on and put in a big performance for my team in the big games by his performance in the U19 World Cup, especially the one against Australia in the semi-finals where he took six wickets.”
Kwena Maphaka is aware that he is among the best players in the competition. With 18 wickets at an average of 9.55, including three five-wicket hauls—a feat not accomplished by any other player in the tournament’s history—he leads the wickets standings.
“I am aware that I am on par with some of the top bowlers in the competition,” he declares.
“Australian Callum Vidler and Indian Saumy Pandey have both bowled quite well. I’m not the greatest, but I’m definitely in the mix.
Maphaka is anxious to highlight that, thus far in the tournament, South Africa has produced a good number of match winners.
South Africa has produced a number of notable people, including Steve Stolk, Dewan Marais, Riley Norton, Tristan Luus, and Maphaka.
The fact that more than one player has competed in the event is advantageous to us, according to Kwena Maphaka. Different guys have contributed to the team. It implies that someone can walk in and give a fantastic performance any day. We truly require that in the semifinals.
India will be aware that Kwena Maphaka is a difficult bowler to stop, especially with fervent supporters cheering him on from the stands. There has been a ton of support for South Africa at the U19 MCWC from the fans.
“Even on weekdays when the parents have work and the kids have school, they [fans] have come out in numbers to back us,” says Kwena Maphaka.
“They have consistently shown up. And they’ll be there in force for the Benoni semi-finals.
The possibility of making it to the final greatly motivates Kwena Maphaka as the semi-final draws near. Fans cheer him on at every turn, so confidence is strong.
“It would be absolutely crazy for the entire nation to turn against you,” he remarks. “You know [when the crowd is behind you] that the atmosphere is really different.” It’s an endeavor that challenges me.
Being at home with your loved ones is just as special as playing away and competing in a final. They have helped you get to where you are now; they love you, and they are there for you. Something about that is distinct.
Although the sides haven’t played yet in the current competition, South Africa and India have previous experience together. Prior to the event, they played each other in two tri-series matches in South Africa, which India won both times.
Given that the Indian hitters have already faced Kwena Maphaka recently, would this make things any easier for them? The quick-bowler knows the answer.
Kwena Maphaka declares forcefully, “I am going to make it as uncomfortable as possible for the Indian batters in the semi-finals. Usually, the more you face someone, the more comfortable it gets.”
It serves as a dire message to the reigning champions.