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Teeger leading light of U19 Bangladesh tour

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David Teeger had never played international cricket before embarking with the South African under-19 cricket team on their 50-over series in Bangladesh last month, but it turned out to be an outstanding tour for him.

The tour marked this King Edward VII matric student’s second time playing overseas and his first ever matches for the under-19 side. Yet not only did he captain the team in three of the five matches, he was also the top run scorer in the series. All through the tour, from 3 to 18 July, he kept kashrut and observed Shabbos.

He notched up scores of 37, 75, 30, 0, and 63 to finish with 205 runs, 49 ahead of the second-highest run scorer, Bangladesh’s Adil Bin Siddik.

“David had a really good tour with the bat,” said his teammate, Kwena Maphaka, 17. “He played with a maturity and calmness that many professionals would admire. He was a major asset to the team with his captaincy and bat in hand.”

Teeger follows in the footsteps of several famous Proteas players such as AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher, Makhaya Ntini, and Kagiso Rabada to have played for the under-19 side.

He has also walked in the same shoes of cricketers who have captained the under-19 team such as Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar, Quinton de Kock, and Aiden Markram, who all went on to captain the Proteas in at least one format.

Even more remarkably, he has now joined a select group of cricketers to have captained their national team on debut. One such cricketer, Tony Lewis, captained England on his Test debut.

Although Bangladesh won the series 3-2, Teeger says the experience was full of “great learnings” and served as good preparation for the 2024 under-19 Cricket World Cup in Sri Lanka. “We got good exposure to the subcontinent’s conditions – the heat, the humidity. The ball turned more and bounced lower. Hopefully, this could benefit us in the World Cup.”

He puts his good form in the series down to training and “piecing together your game plan”.

Knowing the spin-friendly pitches found in the subcontinent, Teeger did a lot of spin-specific work with the national team coaches and his private coach leading up to the tour.

“On some pitches, you have to take away certain shots, but it’s always about backing your ability,” he says. “I tried to use the learnings from coaches who’ve coached Bangladesh and toured there. Obviously, a little luck here and there helps, but I’m happy to be the leading run scorer.”

The captaincy was split between Juan James and Teeger, who led the team in the first, second, and fourth games.

When the players were informed of the split captaincy at a team meeting on their first night in Bangladesh, Teeger felt excited and proud knowing “it’s an honour to lead your country”. He wasn’t too surprised about it because he and James had always captained the opposing teams in inter-squad matches in the trial camps for selection for the tour.

Teeger went on the Bangladesh tour with his dad, former Transvaal wicketkeeper James Teeger, and two suitcases, one for clothes and one for kosher food. They kept Shabbat in the hotel. “Me and my dad had a little laugh about it. We were probably the only two Jewish people in Bangladesh,” Teeger says. “I was quite lucky that we played on the Friday and that Saturday was mostly a rest day, so I didn’t miss out on too much other than an outing.”

They tried to keep their Jewish identity “on the downlow” to ensure the safety of the team. “Levels of terrorism aren’t high in Bangladesh,” he says, “but my team was aware of my situation, and respected it. We did have police escorts wherever we went, so we never felt unsafe. It was never really a matter of my faith impeding the team security.”

In March this year, Teeger made headlines for walking to cricket matches on Saturdays, which he has done for the past five years.

Teeger, King Edward VII’s head of school this year, says being in matric has made things “tough”, but he feels fortunate that his high school career has prepared him to balance his time effectively. “Being at King Edward VII, there’s sport and academics almost at all times. I train a certain number of times a week, and then fill in my academics around that. You enjoy cricket when you’re playing because you almost use it as a release from that stress.”

Teeger plays for his school’s first team and for Old Edwardians Cricket Club in Johannesburg. He has also recently played for the Central Gauteng Lions provincial side and the Central Gladiators during Cubs Week. In July last year, he was man of the match in South Africa’s junior cricket team’s winning final at the 2022 Maccabi Games.

He says the standard of the Bangladesh team was higher than the opposition he faced at the games. “It’s all part of the experience. That’s why we play the game. You want to travel the world and play the sport you love.”

Teeger was selected for the Proteas under-19 side last year in the local Cricket South Africa Division 2 T20 Knockout Competition, but he served as 12th man for those matches. “We won the tournament, so it was great to be part of that environment. To now play my first game for the country in the Bangladesh series was a huge honour. The feeling inside, you can’t even describe. There’s so much excitement and obviously nerves. Getting the first run is always big.”

He says his duties as captain on the tour were the same as those in professional cricket. “It was different to schoolboy captaincy. There were ICC [International Cricket Council] regulations that you had to know, and the umpires were in your face a little bit with the rules, encouraging you to speed up the over rate. You feel more pressure, but try to embrace it as much as you can and enjoy it. Ultimately, it’s similar stuff – trying to set batsmen up, bowling to a plan, and so on. Juan and I helped each other out on the field.

“The team vibe was incredible. We enjoyed each other’s company. When you tour Bangladesh, you need that because you’re not going outside the hotel much. We went touring once or twice. We used the tour as a chance to get to know each other better as cricketers and then as people. Cricket builds friendships and I’m very close to a lot of the guys in the team.”

One would think Teeger is a shoo-in for the under-19 Proteas going forward, but the coaches didn’t give too much of their plans away. “Hopefully my performances in Bangladesh put me in good stead for selection for upcoming matches and tours. There should be that T20 knockout competition again this year and another tour before the World Cup.”

He’s realistic enough to admit “form comes and goes, so it’s just about working hard and sticking to your processes. Hopefully, the rest will take care of itself.”

He’s considering studying at a university next year and playing for its cricket team. He also hopes to receive a professional contract soon.

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