South Africa Speedster Nandre Burger Says He Never Wanted To Be Cricketer

Burger, 28, now is an all-format pacer for South Africa, having made his national team debut in December last year

Nandre Burger during Rajasthan Royals vs Delhi Capitals, IPL 2024, Jaipur Photo: X/@RajasthanRoyals

South African left-arm fast bowler Nandre Burger never aspired to be a cricketer but chose to take up the sport as "it was a free way to study". (Full IPL Coverage)

In 2014, it was through a cricket trial that Burger got admission to University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) with a full scholarship to pursue a psychology major. He has never looked back since.

Burger, 28, now is an all-format pacer for South Africa, having made his national team debut in December last year.

His performances for South Africa earned him a Rs 50 lakh contract with Rajasthan Royals. He also played for Joburg Super Kings in SA20 last month.

"Sounds strange, right. WITS offered a scholarship for those who played cricket. I thought it was cool. I didn't want to be a cricketer, but I was getting a free way to study, so I thought, why not? Cricket was actually my back-up to academics (laughs)," Burger told ESPNcricinfo.

He made his IPL debut in RR's 20-run win over Lucknow Super Giants here on March 24.

But the journey wasn't easy for the lanky left-arm pacer. He tried his hand at tennis and squash before turning to cricket because of a back injury.

Burger has since recovered from the injury. It was his university coach Neil Levenson who saw a potential fast bowler in him for the national team.

"I laughed it off at first. I was like, 'Man, I bowl at 125kph. I can't do this for a living. I've seen guys bowl 145kph.' Neil would have none of that. I said to him, 'Okay, I'll give this a go.' And within a few weeks, I was excited to train. I'd miss classes to be at training, wanting to work batters over," Burger said.

"Then I got the chance to be a net bowler at the franchise team in Jo'burg - Highveld Lions. I'd always played cricket in the backyard with friends and parents, but wouldn't say I ever had the desire to be a professional."

Burger has so far played two Tests, three ODIs and a T20 International for South Africa, picking up 11, 5 and 1 wicket respectively.

In only his second ODI last December in Gqeberha, Burger picked up 3 for 30 to help South Africa bowl out India for 211.

"As I walked off the field, Pommie (Mbangwa) and Shaun Pollock were like, 'Well bowled, and congrats,' and I'm thinking, congrats for taking three wickets? Congrats for bowling ten overs? It wasn't even my debut, so I'm confused. I go in, change and come back down again," he said.

"Shaun was like, 'I'm sure you're so excited.' I still didn't get it, so I said, 'Yeah, it's cool, I think I got my first (ODI) wicket, so it's a great feeling.' Then he's like, 'No man, I mean for the IPL. You're going to play for Rajasthan Royals'.

"Everyone was saying 'Congratulations' and I was oblivious to what was happening. After the game, when I put my phone on, all I read was 'congrats, congrats, congrats' and 'well done, well done'. I didn't know if it was for the game or IPL."