So to kick off JP, what is your first cricketing memory that you can recall?
“Well I started playing the game when I was nine years old and I remember my very first cricket game like it happened yesterday. I got a first ball duck and I remember telling myself that it can only get better from here! How I started playing was really just me following friends into club cricket in the area that I lived and from there the love for the game grew.”
“Things became a little more serious as I played in all the provincial teams up to U13 level and school cricket as well. Then I was fortunate enough to get a senior first class contract at seventeen years old and I made my debut for South Africa at aged twenty. It has been a real roller-coaster ride since then, obviously it has it’s ups and downs but I have been really blessed to have a decent career thus far”.
Was there a particular moment growing up where you suddenly thought, I want to go on to be a pro cricketer?
“It was probably more my dad who believed that I could go on to play international cricket at some stage, it became more of a reality for me once I had got that professional contract and then things started to sink in. I started to believe in the process a bit more, but before then it was more my dad, I didn’t necessarily know how good I was or actually if I was good enough. My whole family have always supported me through out my journey so I am very thankful for them.”
Can you tell us how you came to know God for yourself, a bit of your story?
“I grew up in a Catholic church and I went through the procedure of confirmation and all of those kind of things, after that I used to go now and then but I never really had a personal relationship with God. At a later point I got invited to a Bible study by a friend, probably about five years ago. I remember that there was four of us there with a pastor and I remember sitting there thinking that I was so out of place and so uncomfortable. As a professional cricketer my natural process was to think that everyone was watching me, so I took the pastor’s details and then contacted him personally and we started meeting one-on-one.”
“We met for about two years whenever we had time, we would just talk and he would guide me on certain things, answer my questions and never pressurised me in any way. To cut a long story short, two years later we were touring Sri Lanka and myself AB De Villiers, Faf Du Plessis and David Miller started a little Bible study together in the national team. One of the sessions was called ‘Salvation’ and at the end of the chapter it asked you the question of whether you are willing to commit yourself to God. On that night all four of us committed our lives to him, this all happened in a Marine boat place in Sri Lanka somewhere. Months later I got baptised along with my wife which was great and we spoke about our journeys to close family and friends. It’s been a great a three years since.”
— Cross The Line (@crossthelinex_) June 19, 2016
You have represented the Proteas now for many years in all formats but what is your one stand-out highlight?
“It would probably be 2012 when we beat England in England to claim the number one Test ranking. We received the number one mace at Lords and we won the series 2-0, it was a really tough series and definitely stood out as one of my highlights.”
How has knowing God impacted on your cricket career?
“It is an obvious change, a tough one in many ways as well because operating in a sport environment you don’t necessarily have time to go to church and connect with Christians all of the time. So this leaves you quite alone on tour in many ways, what is nice in the South African team at the moment is that we have quite a few Christians. We will get together maybe once a week, connect, do some Bible study and pray together, myself and Faf became best friends through our faith so we connect a lot in terms of our spirituality.”
“Knowing God has impacted my life dramatically from a cricketing point of you, in terms of knowing and understanding that God doesn’t look at your performance, he looks at your heart and the person you are. If you don’t perform God still loves you and he still wants to see you prosper.”
— Cross The Line (@crossthelinex_) June 7, 2016
Which bowler has caused you the most nightmares in your career?
“The most nightmares. . . probably Steve Harmison. The taller the bowler the more challenging it is to face generally. Fortunately I didn’t face him many times but I found him very tough. I also didn’t enjoy Mitchell Johnson and I am happy to see the back of him now that he has retired.”
Is it hard, as a Christian sportsman, to know where to draw the line with issues like sledging?
“I have never really been a sledger but I think where it comes into play is when people sledge me and what my response is to that. You can get quite angry on the field and I guess the key is just to leave it on the field and not carry it with me, to find a way to love people regardless of how they have treated me. Ultimately it is all about the response and how you treat people.”
JP, you famously took a World Cup hat-trick not so long ago, what goes through your head when you are on that hat-trick ball?
“It was a weird one actually because I took a wicket on the last ball of the previous over and then two wickets in this current over so not many people knew it. I just tried to bowl it as straight as possible and hope for the best, fortunately enough the guy missed it and it hit his pad.”
You have set up the JP21 Project, what drove you to do that?
“Yeah, so it has always been something that my dad has spoken to me about, giving back to the community. The community that I am from has about a million people and there are about fifty-six Primary schools alone. Cricket has basically died in the community and we had an opportunity to revive it and drive it with me at the forefront. I have employed my best friend to run the project full-time and we have started an U11 and U13 cricket league after school. The idea is for the children to get away from the negative environments in the community, it’s an opportunity to play sport whilst also giving them fresh choices in life.”
Let’s talk about your IPL experience this year with the Delhi Daredevils, it must have been full on?
“I thoroughly enjoyed it to be honest, I thought that it brought the best out of me as a person and from a performance point of view it drove me to give my best. However, I think the great thing about being a captain is understanding what type of leadership qualities you have, where you need to improve and how you communicate with people.”
Do you have any particular bible verses that encourage you?
“Yes there is actually one that I have just written down. I normally write the verse on a piece of paper and stick it in the bathroom because you spend a lot of time there. It is Jeremiah 29:11, ‘For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’. So I just remind myself of that everyday and no matter what challenges I am facing I know that God will work everything for my good.”