The Bullring is next to the nets at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg. You make your way through the stands to an elevated patch with enough space for many batsmen to take a swing and plenty of room to whack the ball. Virat Kohli batted there in early 2018 ahead of the Johannesburg Test.
He was still upset about India’s series loss and had just returned from a combative press conference in Centurion, where he had scored a magnificent 153 in the series-winning innings.
Kohli is beaten three times in a row outside off stump in the Wanderers nets, looking worked up, which he normally can convert into a zen-like concentration.
He isn’t Indian, and he isn’t even a regular net bowler. Marco Jansen is a 17-year-old boy. And if he seems to be in two locations at the same time, it’s because his twin brother Duan is also there. The twins, who both bowl left-arm pace and are closer to seven feet than six feet, will end the nets session by taking a picture with Kohli, which they will enlarge and hang in the flat they will share.
After drawing a “Well bowled” from Kohli three years ago, Marco might find himself bowling to the man once more, this time in the world’s most elite league, when IPL 2021 rolls around. The Mumbai Indians paid Rs 20 lakh (approximately $28,000) for Marco’s base price, and Zaheer Khan, the franchise’s director of cricket operations, said after the auction that they were expecting a bidding war.
Mumbai had been “tracking Marco for the last two years,” according to team owner Akash Ambani. When the most comprehensive franchise in T20 expresses interest in you and has a track record of spotting talent early, people take note.
“When you think about it like that, I can’t believe it,” Marco says. “To be honest, my brother and I were dreaming about playing for the varsity first team three years ago and had never considered the IPL.” So I consider myself fortunate and privileged to be where I am today. It’s an incredible honour.
“I just need to get in a hop because I’m very lean for my height and need to bulk up a little. My target is to increase my average speed to 140 mph or higher. That’s probably why they [Mumbai Indians] were looking at me. And that I can also middle it [with the bat] a little bit. I’m not going to say anything more about that (laughs), but I can hit the ball.”
Marco is marginally taller but 15 minutes younger than Duan, which grants Duan certain older-sibling privileges, such as keeping the picture of the two of them with Kohli when Marco moved to Port Elizabeth to play domestic cricket for the Warriors.