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Like everyone, I wanted to be a complete all-rounder: Juan Theron

Like everyone, I wanted to be a complete all-rounder: Juan Theron

Theron played for two franchises in the IPL - Deccan Chargers and Kings XI Punjab - before moving to Rajasthan Royals.

We all have friends who - sometimes for the weirdest of reasons - picked up a strange nickname that stuck for life. And no matter how hard we try, we just can't get back to calling them by their real name.

During a freewheeling interaction, Wisden India discovers the intriguing story behind Juan Theron, the South African paceman, becoming 'Rusty'.

When 11, Theron decided to dye his copper barnet black before going on a holiday. But as it turned out, the dye was of the temporary kind, and very soon the natural red colour of his hair started to show through the black tint.

"It looked sort of like a rusty shade on a black pane," he recalls, with a titter. "One day, when I was bowling in the nets, there was this friend who shouted out, 'Well bowled, Rusty' and I turned around wondering what on earth was that supposed to mean. I obviously got annoyed with that name, but by then, everyone was having a good laugh about it."

Ever since, the Potchefstroom-born cricketer has had to live with the moniker, which was recently heard in the Jamaica Tallawahs's fan-chants when he bagged 3 for 19 against St Lucia Zouks in a Caribbean Premier League contest at a packed Beausejour Stadium.

So far, the 2015 edition of the CPL has been a great one for both Theron and his side, who finished third last year. The tournament itself has gained a lot of popularity from the improved quality of cricket on offer this year.

"It has been awesome so far, with an improved standard of players in the tournament this year," points out Theron, who has picked up five wickets at 20.20 in the competition so far. "Even from the viewers' point of view, it is great as you can see a number of big names who have turned up. There is of course KP (Kevin Pietersen), Mahela (Jayawardene), Dan (Daniel Vettori), (Shahid) Afridi and many such big names. Unfortunately Lasith (Malinga) could not make it but yes, overall, also because of the increased number of evening matches, the stadiums have been full for almost every match."

It is fascinating enough to watch them play for the same team in the competition, but one might wonder what it might be like to share a dressing room with the likes of Vettori, Jayawardene and Chris Gayle.

"It is a wonderful experience," is Theron's response. "It sort of reminded me of the Indian Premier League where you have such great players surrounding you. Chris and Dan were part of this last year, but yes, this year has been great, having Mahela join us and Andre Russell, another great player, around.

"They are such good guys, always ready to share their experiences. It gives you a great chance to look into the individual's life outside cricket, and there is a lot to learn from that as well."

Theron played for two franchises in the IPL - Deccan Chargers and Kings XI Punjab - before moving to Rajasthan Royals last season.

"Rajasthan Royals as a unit is a great one - very relaxed, yet very professional," says Theron. "They do not have military-like rules, but they make sure the players are at their best all the time. Even from the dugout, you watch and learn while absorbing the electric atmosphere. And then, playing alongside Shane Watson, Steven Smith and James Faulkner, while working with someone like Rahul Dravid and Paddy Upton - it was fantastic."

Theron has played limited-overs cricket for various sides all around the world, but does he ever dream of turning up in whites to represent South Africa in the longest form of the game?

"Like every young cricketer, I too wanted to be a complete all-round cricketer who can do everything," he says. "To tell you the truth, I never really enjoyed Twenty20 cricket much when I started playing it. I was always the guy who preferred four-day cricket, or one-day cricket, which is still probably my strongest format.

"When I started getting selected for South Africa (in the ODIs), I missed out on a lot of local domestic matches. And then I had a bad injury the following year, and never really got a chance to push for a Test spot. Funnily, T20 is the format which turned out to be the most productive one for me. The shortest format can definitely be a stepping stone to the ODI squad, as we have seen recently. So yes, I guess there never was much of a consideration to play Test cricket from my side, but hey, everyone playing the sport dreams of a Test cap, doesn't he?"

Now 29, Theron played the last of his four ODIs in 2010, and has been on the sidelines ever since his final international appearance two years later - a T20I against India in Johannesburg in March, 2012.

"I think these opportunities like the CPL or the IPL put you on a stage to make a name for yourself," he says. "Not just me, every youngster, or those willing to get into the game - these tournaments provide a great platform. If you put up good performances here, it is always going to be noticed, and that increases your chances of playing for the national team. For me personally, I am glad to have this opportunity here in the West Indies. Four great games so far, hopefully I can bring out a few more good performances for the Tallawahs."

With less than 12 months for the World T20, most countries are looking to blood fresh faces in preparation of the tournament, and some may argue saying it is too late for Theron to make a comeback to the national side anytime soon. But he strongly disagrees with that theory.

"I don't think it is ever too late," he counters. "Like I said, if I can get some good performances under my belt from the remaining matches here, and then maybe in case there is the Champions League or something. There is plenty of cricket left between now and then, so you never know, You just got to put in the necessary performances, and you are always in with a chance."