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It’s a tough job says feisty keeper

Posted : 15 October 2012

By George Byron

WHEN Chevrolet Warriors wicket-keeper Athi Dyili tells you standing behind the stumps all day is a tough job, you have no option but to believe him after he shows you his battle scars.

The tough 28-year-old, who is already a seasoned veteran of  62 first-class matches, has a most unusual set of fingers.
Catching a hard cricket ball hour after hour has taken its toll on Dyili’s fingers, which are  now all  bent  backwards at the tip.
He also has a permanently dislocated thumb,  which he says will stay the way it is because it is not painful.
“A lot depends on where you play and what the pitch is like. But if the ball is moving around and you have to dive a lot you can end up being sore at the end of the day,” smiled Dyili.
“Thankfully, I have not had many injuries to my hands and at worst I have been forced to miss the odd game. Sometimes you just have to work through the pain barrier.”
Dyili, who was born just outside King William’s Town, said he started playing cricket at a young age with his pals in the street.
“There was nothing formal about it. We just used to play for the fun and enjoyment of it.”
Dyili clearly had a flair for the game and when his school, Charles Morgan, played against Dale Junior he caught the eye of Carl Spielhaus, a cricket master at Dale.
“Things happened very quickly then and I was introduced to coach Greg Hayes and I was awarded a scholarship to attend Dale.
“Up until then I had been keeping wicket and bowling medium pacers,  but it was Mr Spilhaus who encouraged me to take up wicket-keeping full time.
“Mr Spielhaus was a former Border wicket-keeper,  so he also had a  lot of valuable tips to pass on about the position,” said Dyili.
It was advice that paid off because Dyili has now established himself as one of the best keepers in the country and also jointly holds the record for the most dismissals in a South African first-class innings,  with Thami Tsolekile
“I achieved the record of eight dismissals for the EP Amateur side in a match against Free state in 2009 at St George’s Park. I am very proud to have my name in the record books alongside Thami.
The ambitious wicket-keeper, who says he wants to help the Warriors win titles this year, says fitness is vital if you want to maintain a high level of concentration during a four-day match.
“Pre-season preparation plays a big part in ensuring you are ready for the first game of the season.
“During a four-day game it is important to switch off for short  periods between deliveries and then refocus when the bowler starts his run-up.
The Warriors wicket-keeper said he was delighted that his team got their Sunfoil Series campaign off to the best possible start with a convincing 161-run win over the Titans.
“We are putting a lot of emphasis on the four-day format this year because it is the toughest trophy to win
“Of all the formats, I prefer the four-day game because you get more time to bat and express yourself. In the other formats everything happens very quickly.”
“Success for the team could see Warriors players getting called up for teams like the SA A team, which would be great. So it promises to be an exciting time for us.”
Dyili says if he was not a professional cricketer he would probably have become an accountant. “At school I loved accounting and enjoyed figures.”
Being  handy at figures will be useful for the ambitious young wicket-keeper when he adds up his runs and dismissals in what promises to be an exciting summer for Dyili’s Warriors.

This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, October 13, 2012.

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