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Gavin Kaplan strikes out for WP cricket

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After five years of dogged toil, Gavin Kaplan has just begun to create a name for himself in Western Province cricket circles. An upper-order batsman, he made his four-day debut for Western Province against Northerns at Newlands before Christmas, and is hoping to play a healthy part in the white-ball campaigns through February and March.

Kaplan doesn’t quite know how the breakthrough from being a good club cricketer to a provincial one came about, but he says that he’s had a couple of “good” T20 club tournaments playing for Western Province Cricket Club in the Cape Town Premier League. These have got him noticed but he’s also managed to come to terms with the demon of failure – and he feels liberated as a result.

“I can’t really put my finger on it, but I finished my studies [a Bachelor of Business Administration] in July last year,” he said. “That might have something to do with it.”

“It’s probably a mental thing, though. I’m playing with more freedom and less fear of failure now. Fear of failure in a game like cricket can really eat you up.”

Kaplan said his four-day debut was enjoyable, and although he didn’t score many runs in a big home defeat to Northerns, he came away from the experience feeling that he wasn’t out of place in such company. “I didn’t feel like a deer in the headlights, if I can put it that way,” he said with the hint of a smile down the telephone line.

When the summer is over here in South Africa, he’s off to the Netherlands for a season playing as a professional for HBS in The Hague. The gig came about through the recommendation of Ryan Klein, a good friend of his, who spoke to the chairman of HBS and sung Kaplan’s praises. “Ryan and I have been playing together since we were young,” said Kaplan. “He has a Dutch passport and he played his first game for the Netherlands against Afghanistan two days ago – he’s a bowling all-rounder.”

Having played for Western Province in all the age-group teams, Kaplan matriculated from Rondebosch Boy’s High in 2016. His first year out was spent at Gary Kirsten’s High-Performance Academy but after that, it was a case of two steps forward and one back as he struggled to take the step up to regular provincial cricket – a state of affairs that has befallen many a young cricketer before him.

Even though he’s played for Western Province recently, he isn’t on a contract at the union, rather playing on a pay-as-you-play basis. He’s hoping that this will change, but he’s likely to remain on a match-by-match contract certainly until the end of the season.

He has much to thank parents Paul and Robyn for, he said, but he reserves special plaudits for his older brother, Michael, who is 26. Michael, he said, was always an unstinting source of good cheer and support. “It wasn’t so much competition with Michael, he gave up cricket in Standard 9 [Grade 11],” said Kaplan. “It was more a case of him just being so supportive. He helps me up rather than brings me down.”

The only mildly critical thing of Michael that his younger brother manages to tell the SA Jewish Report is that he’s a Manchester United supporter. For this, we offer him our condolences this time of conspicuous under-achievement at Old Trafford (Gavin supports Arsenal).

Sport has always been an integral part of Kaplan family life because Paul and Robyn opened Disa Sports, a sports equipment company, way back in 1998. Gavin said they imported most of what they sold from India and China.

When asked if, now that he’s completed his degree, there’s any chance of him going into the family business, he’s slightly non-committal, although he does say that there’s a sentimental pull for him, given that Disa Sports has been a family business for more than 20 years.

When I put it to him that Western Province cricket is under-performing, and with its facilities, history, and gene pool should be doing better, he gives an immaculate answer any opening batter would be proud of: “I suppose when you put it that way, they have been under-performing, although I think there are important people other than myself who should be answering that question. They have to give answers, while I think I have to be part of the answer – if I can put it that way.”

The domestic T20 competition will be played in a bio-bubble in Port Elizabeth later this month, and given that he’s had local Cape success with the form, Kaplan could conceivably use the tournament to grow both his game and name. Cricket South Africa’s One-Day Cup happens in March, and he’s likely to play a role for Western Province there too. All in all, it’s going to be a busy few months for Kaplan.

Finally he’s got the fear of failure monkey off his back. He can now start enjoying his time at the crease and enjoying the work that it takes for him to get there.

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