“If you work hard every day, believe in and trust yourself, anything is possible.”
(Davy Jacobs opening the batting with Sachin Tendulkar. Time; 2:00-5:00.)
Not many people can dream of a life within professional sport, and yet, for those who do, there is nothing more satisfying than achieving that dream. Davy Jacobs is one of the few in South Africa who has been given the opportunity to be a professional. Not just a professional in just any workplace, but a professional in a sport that he loves so much, cricket. He was the only cricketer from his school in Kerksdorp (Transvaal) at that time to represent South Africa at U 19 level, who has then gone on to represent the Eagles, Free State, North West, Northamptonshire, the Warriors and the Mumbai Indians. As a captain he leads by example both behind the stumps with the gloves and in front of them with the bat. His first class debut was in 2001/2002 with his T20 debut coming a few years later in 2004 against Eastern Cape. It was a debut to savour as Davy Jacobs produced a valuable 47 runs in what became an unfortunate defeat, but it became the start of a very illustrious T20 career that has brought a number of rewards with the razzmatazz of the Indian Premier League being the biggest.
More often than not you can hear people talk fondly about retired professionals and greats of the game with similar sentiments. The sentiments always follow a similar pattern, “he was destined from an early age to become a cricketer.” In some cases it was a parent or even the player himself who foretold their sporting future. Davy Jacobs has fond memories of a time when he told his father that he would be a professional cricketer one day. To foretell the career he wants to achieve at the age of 7 is an extraordinary indication of the kind of determination and commitment Davy Jacobs has had from the very beginning. Many of us struggle to know what career we want at the age of 18, never mind doing so at 7 years old and many young sportsmen and women have the talent but not the work ethic to go with it.
“My dad’s actually still got a video back home of me as a 7yr old saying I want to be a professional cricketer one day, so its def something I’ve always wanted to do.”
As you would imagine, every young boy growing up would have an idol, someone they always looked up to in their favourite sport, someone to learn from and aspire to. While growing up Davy Jacobs didn’t really have any cricketing heroes. He didn’t idolise someone like Ian Healy or Sir Vivian Richards by rushing to see them on television or pretend to be them in the back yard. Although, he did hold admiration for one particular player. India’s best batsman of all time Sachin Tendulkar aka the ‘little master’ is the only player that really grabbed Davy’s attention. A batsman who was playing for India at the age of 16 was something to look up to and aspire to.
“As a youngster I’ve always admired Sachin, and I still do. I just remember my dad telling me at the time that this kid is only nine years older than me and he is playing test cricket at the age of 16.”
(Davy Jacobs in his Mumbai Indians jersey.)
However, it wasn’t long before he would be given the opportunity to shine. Leicestershire were touring South Africa and a game was arranged against the North West Dragons. The North West Dragons were struggling to put a full team of senior players out onto the pitch and so Davy Jacobs was given the opportunity to gain some experience. Experience was not the only thing he gained during that game. He stood up and was counted and he showed everyone what he was capable with with the bat by scoring heavily in a three day game and a few one dayers.
“Our local team, the North West Dragons played a 3day game and a couple of 1dayers against them. Not all of the seniors were available, and I was lucky enough to play those games, and scored heavily in all the games. That was basically my foot in the door for the professional setup the following season.”
That series of games proved to be the catalyst for Davy Jacobs and the career that has followed. Now, Davy Jacobs no longer stands as a 17 year old with something to prove, but stands as a 29 year old, living the dream. He took to the professional game like a duck to water and relished the step up in quality. When asked about his success and how it was achieved, Davy was quick to emphasise the work ethos that has driven him to the dizzy heights of professional cricket. While he accepts that players need to have some kind of talent to succeed, Davy believes that taking the step up was more of a psychological challenge.
“It is definitely a step up, but only on the mental side of it. Obviously you need to have some sort of ability, but it is just about believing that if you were belting it around at schoolboy level, that you can do the same in the professional arena. If you work hard every day, believe in and trust yourself, anything is possible.”
Preparation is something that we all know is vitally important in professional sport and Davy is a keen advocate of match preparation. Davy Jacobs is not a man who allows superstitions to enter his mind before the game and he focuses solely on his performance. If he doesn’t feel comfortable with the routine or a technique then he won’t leave training until that problem is solved. That is a fine example for any young cricketer growing up and learning to play the game.
“Not very superstitious but preparation is very important for me. Whether it is keeping or batting, I go through all my routines until I feel comfortable and ready for the upcoming fixture. If something isn’t 100%, I won’t leave the nets until I get it right.”
(Davy Jacobs wicket keeping as Brendan McCullum tries a reverse sweep.)
As a result of Davy Jacob’s hard work and determination he has experienced many highlights throughout his career. To add to his earlier accolades of scoring heavily against Northamptonshire, playing for the Under 19’s during a World Cup, of which he found himself the top run scorer in the team, Davy has captained his franchise (Chevrolet Warriors) and helped guide them to their first trophy in 18 years. Two weeks later he guided them to another victory and another trophy. Two trophies in the space of a few weeks is a fantastic achievement. However, one particular highlight stands out. During the IPL Davy Jacobs had the privilege of walking out to bat with the little master himself, Sachin Tendulkar.
“I’d have to think of when I walked out to bat with Sachin during last year’s IPL. It really was something very special.”
There are highs and lows in professional sport and injury is one of the lows. A rigorous playing schedule means that players are quite often pushed to their limits both physically and psychologically. Unfortunately for Davy Jacobs, his injuries have come at the wrong time. A broken thumb during the early stages of the 4th Indian Premier League and hip surgery after just one game of the Champions League in India has meant that he has had to spend time away from the game and frustratingly, at times when he is in good form. With both injuries coming relatively close together it has allowed Davy to recover properly and get some much needed rest. His recovery is well under way and it won’t be long before he is putting the gloves back on.
“But after having the big operation on my hip in October, I’ll only be back playing towards the end of February, maybe even March. So as for now, I’m in the gym every day, getting stronger, and getting through my rehab program. I’ll come back stronger and better than before, this period really has made me extremely hungry for success, and I’ve missed the game a lot. “
The life of top cricketers means that they will travel all around the world. Sometimes it will take them to obscure places that people have never heard of let alone ever wanted to go there. For all his sins Davy Jacobs ended up in what the locals like to call “our wee country,” and with a thick Belfast accent from his new team mates he was instantly welcomed into the bosom of Northern Ireland. He initially spent some time with Carrickfergus Cricket Club where Zimbabwe’s Ray Price has also played in the past at a time when Carrickfergus had strong financial backing. However, Instonians has become a club that Davy Jacobs holds a huge affection for and he looks back on his time there fondly. It is a club I know very well (having played against them myself), they are a top club and it is no surprise that Davy considered himself an Instonian relatively quickly. Northern Irish cricket presented Davy with new challenges. If you have ever played cricket in Ireland, in particular at the smaller clubs and lower levels, the pitches are delightful and you will know the kind of challenges he faced.
“It is totally different conditions to what we are used to back home. It presents you with totally different challenges, and that can only benefit your game. I’ve done a fair bit of bowling there, with the odd fiver in there as well, so that is always a highlight for me!”
Now I don’t know what he is trying to say there if a wicketkeeper is taking 5 fer’s in our league, but it appears that not only is Davy Jacobs a wicketkeeper batsman, he can also tweak a few deliveries as well. Hopefully one day Instonians will be graced with Davy’s presence once again and I can watch my brother bowl Davy Jacobs out in the nets or I smash his spin bowling for a 6 (I can but dream of smashing a spinner for 6).
(Davy Jacobs after playing another magnificent shot.)
(Copyright belongs to Davy Jacobs, Big Sports Management and The Raging Potato. Any pictures and additional information are used with Mr Jacobs and Big Sports Management’s permission.)
(Video copyright belongs to the IPL.)