Fear was his calling card in a fiery stay

Madhu Jawali Jan 7 2018, 17:37 IST
A A
Brett Schultz

Fast and furious is often used loosely these days but that description sat perfectly on Brett Schultz. He was big -- stood over six feet and weighed around 100 kgs – and hurled the cricket ball "either to get a batsman out or knock him down." A gentleman to the core off the field, Schultz admits he liked putting the fear of God into the batsmen.

Recurring injuries and a difficult action ensured that the left-arm tearaway played no more than nine Tests in a span of five years (from 1992 to 1997) and retired by the age of 28. During that short career he did enough to create, what he says, an "urban legend" about him. Now an insurer and a business partner, Schultz leads a contended life in Cape Town. DH caught up with him for a chat. Excerpts.      

Do you think if you had played now, you could have prolonged your career?

The modern-day game, they are better conditioned than what we were and they have their workloads managed. I believe it's something like four days on and three days off. We got four days on and three days on and repeat. My injuries would have been managed better but I still don't think I would have lasted longer. If you look at my action, it was a very heavy action. I played for South Africa at a 100 kilograms once, which is very heavy for a fast bowler. I'm 125 now, but back in the day I was 100. My effectiveness was my action, a heavy catapult with a pie-jump! I would have had a longer career, if managed better, but my effectiveness was in the explosiveness of my action. It was flat out type of approach to the game. If you changed that I might have played longer but I wouldn't have been as effective.

You come across as a very gentle person off the field, did you try and cultivate that aggressive character when you went out on the field?

There are two different personalities. Very distinctive. They used to call it white line fever. I crossed the boundary ropes and then you couldn't talk to me. I was very focused, very passionate. Let's call it passionate about playing for my country, playing the game. My job was to either get you out or knock you out. You weren't going to stick around. And I wouldn't hold any words or aggression back to get you out. Fear came first and your wicket came second. There's a story about Eric Simons. Eastern vs Western Province. He played here and I played in PE (Port Elizabeth). I was still very young. At the lunch-break Eric was chatting with me and he pulled out his family album. He said 'there's my wife and my two children' I said "Gee what a wonderful family' and he said 'then why the hell are you trying to kill me out there?' That is the story of the two sides of Brett. I'm the first guy who will come up to have a beer with you after a conflict with you on the field.

Did you enjoy putting fear of God into batsmen?

It's a bit of exuberance of youth. It was about performance and it was about being out there and then the nickname -- the Bear. There was a whole big character that was built up around you and I think I played into it. Now that I can look back, they used to say put meat around the cage and let him out. And when you are that young, you become that. I did enjoy that. Looking back now, maybe I was a bit over the top but it worked. Today it won't work because you will be suspended if you do that.

Your career was short but impactful…

I started cricket late in life. I was a wicketkeeper till under-15 and I focused on Rugby because of my size. I was able to perform better in the more physical sports. Cricket was short and impactful for me. Unfortunately for me the injuries started early and I could not get myself fit enough to bowl. I had seven knee operations in all and one on my ankle. My action and my size got the better of my long-term prospects. But I loved every single second of playing for my country. It was short, impactful and part of my life, my cricket career, but it's not my whole life.

How do you look back at your career, any regrets?

I think it's very hard to say you don't have regrets. I wouldn't have played in the Test against England injured. I came back too early to play against Australia. I had wickets behind me. But the Sri Lanka (20 wickets in three Tests) one was the one where Kepler Wessels phoned me and said 'I've put my neck out for you, don't let me down.' From a regrets point of view, yes, I do have some, but I put it in its box. Because I know with my limited ability, I did what I could. What you saw was what you got. All out, flat out. With age, I would have done it differently, but the exuberance of youth is something you can't replace. The whole team would get lifted up when there was that sort of energy put into it. You look at Kohli and he creates the same kind of energy. Those are the things that makes the game so much fun to watch. You take that out and it becomes boring.  

Injuries troubled even after retirement, your right hand almost had to be amputated…

I retired 1997, and about 14 years ago, I fell off a chair getting a suitcase out of a cupboard. I was travelling on a business trip. I shattered my elbow and unfortunately I picked up a super bug in the hospital. I got very infected and had 16 elbow operations. After the 10th one they said they were going to amputate my arm. I signed the piece of paper when I went under the knife, knowing that I could wake up with what I call my Nemo, my one flipper. Fortunately the doctor was able to save it. We then tried to fuse it, looked at replacements, and at the end of the day we took it out. About six years ago, about two years after my last operation, I went into rehab and am now fully functional. I faced this elbow with the same attitude as I did everything else, that you can overcome anything.

I'm proud of it, but it was tough. It was one of the hardest things I've had to deal with in my life. Dealing with cricket injuries is one thing. That's about not being able to play. This was about not having a limb on your body.

 

More News: