Blind cricket in South Africa has been rocked by soaring highs and emotional lows over the course of the last week. On Tuesday, Ferdi Boer became the first South African visually impaired cricketer to hit a T20 double-hundred during a successfully staged provincial tournament. But, by the end of the week the celebration of his milestone was tinged with sadness after the sudden death of Blind Cricket South Africa (BCSA) president and national team captain Sonwabile Bidla.
Bidla and Boer had in fact played on opposing teams in the final of the national tournament the day after Boer had scored his record 205 for Boland in a match against Free State at the BCSA national tournament in Tshwane.
“It’s very sad new for us,” Boer told ESPNcricinfo. “He was playing for Gauteng blind cricket as well. His team was playing in the final against my team Boland. And they won the final. So, it’s very sudden and very sad news for us here in South Africa.”
Bidla carried several roles within the organisation, both as an administrator and as a player and was named Cricket South Africa’s Blind Cricketer of the Year in 2016 – an award he won several times.
“It is with deep regret that BCSA have to inform all off you of the passing of the president of blind cricket South Africa, Mr.Sonwabile Bidla,” read a statement released by BCSA. “We would like to offer our deepest condolences to Mr. Bidla’s fiancé and his family.”
Boer insisted that Bidla would be sorely missed in national team – the two played alongside each other when South Africa went to the World T20 in India in 2017. Bidla had been instrumental in the revamping of BCSA in recent years, helping to create the system that has nurtured Boer to record-breaking success.
“It started when I was young,” explained Boer. “I went to a school for the blind and they introduced me to cricket there. I took it from there, went to tournaments. Those tournaments helped me to grow my batting skills, and this is where I am today because of blind cricket.”
Boer plays under the B2 (partially sighted) category, and has always been used as a pinch-hitter. “From a small age when I started playing blind cricket in 2004 I was a very aggressive batsman. All the players, all the teams, were very aware of me. When I open the batting they want to get me out because they know if I bat through I’ll go big.”
He batted through the entire 20 overs against Free State before being run-out off the final delivery. His mammoth knock included 39 fours and four sixes, with the leg side being particularly productive.
“It’s something big for me, to achieve that. It’s really something big for me. I batted almost the whole twenty overs, and it was really hot and I was so tired, but I made it. Everybody’s talking about it. I want to thank all my family and friends for the support.”