Two of the biggest names in world cricket, both of whom happen to be in the country with the England team albeit from different generations, had a brush with the reality of life outside their reputations on Thursday – and both handled the moment with admirable good humour.
Kevin Pietersen arrived at Kingsmead in the light but persistent drizzle and wandered out onto his former home ground to reacquaint himself with the place where he first played at senior level. A frail looking man in waterproofs approached the England star and offered the traditional Zuklu handshake before slapping him on the back.
Wilson Ngobese has been on the Kingsmead groundstaff for longer than he cares to remember (“more than 30 years” is all he will offer) and has been head curator for the last decade. “I don’t mind who he plays for or how famous he is, he will always be my laaitjie,” Ngobese grinned.
Meanwhile, less than a kilometre away, Sir Ian Botham was checking into the Hilton hotel. The great all rounder enjoys nothing more than escaping from the cricket circuit for a bit of rest and recuperation – not to mention anonymity – but when he’s working, especially in a cricket-mad city like Durban, he knows and expects that every move in public will be accompanied by a request for signatures or photographs.
He waited patiently at the check-in counter, silently enduring one of those moments when the lady behind the counter appeared determined to finish writing a lengthy novel before assisting the guest.
Eventually, another member of the reservations team wandered over to enquire whether ‘Beefy’ was being helped. “No, I don’t think so,” replied Sir Ian, finally casting a glare at the typing woman. “Are you checking in, sir?” enquired the young man. “I am,” Botham confirmed.
“Botham,” mumbled Sir Ian, casting a couple of looks at the hangers-on who has started to gather.
“Sorry, Sir, can you repeat that?”
“Botham!” stated Beefy firmly but also wary that he was being ‘set up.’
“Thank you, sir. You are on the executive floor, room 1401. Enjoy your stay.”
The young man was utterly unfazed – perhaps even unaware – of the muffled sniggers around him.
“Do you really not know who he is?” I asked as I signed my own form.
“Who?” replied the innocent.
“At least it makes a change,” chuckled Sir Ian as he made his way to the lifts.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.