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Fortuin’s fortitude: A boy who ‘represents what’s best about SA’

Fortuin,who opens the batting,has been getting the team off to strong starts.

Written by Jonathan Selvaraj | Visakhapatnam | Published: October 5, 2013 4:08:17 am

With 256 runs so far,wicketkeeper-batsman Clyde Fortuin is the second highest run-getter in this four-nation quadrangular at Visakhapatnam and the highest in the South African camp. Having struck three fifties with a highest of 90 against India,Fortuin,who opens the batting,has been getting the team off to strong starts. In life,however,Fortuin didn’t have the best of starts.

Having clawed his way up in society through hard times,Fortuin,18,is visibly uncomfortable when asked about his childhood. Born in Cape Town,his mother Connie was unable to care for him and was forced to leave him in the care of a friendly couple – the Langeveldts. Fortuin was one then. He grew up calling Cynthia Langeveldt ‘mom,and her husband Dion as ‘dad’. Connie would drop by whenever she could.

A natural

“We didn’t always have a lot. But Dion and Cynthia made sure I never lacked for anything,” says Fortuin. He grew up playing soccer,joining a local club where he made friends with a teammate,Jason Fourie. Later,Fortuin would also be introduced to cricket by his ‘father’. Fortuin turned out to be a natural on both sides of the stumps,soon catching the eye of Jason’s father,Charles Fourie — a cricket enthusiast.

Just when things were starting to look good for Fortuin — he was developing as a cricketer under the watchful eyes of his mentors,Cynthia,Dion and Charles — tragedy struck again when Dion passed away due to a lung ailment. Fortuin was 11 then. The times were rough.

Without Dion,living in Walmer Estate — a hardscrabble part of town known for its fair share of violence — wasn’t easy. “It is the sort of place where a kid can easily go astray with drugs and guns. It is to Clyde’s credit that he was able to stay away from all of that,” says Morgan Pillay,team manager of this South Africa Under-19 side.

Plenty of credit can also go to Charles,who took control of the young boy’s life,giving it a direction. “He is a great guy. He is my guardian,” says Fortuin with a big smile. Unwilling to let the boys talent go to waste,Charles Fourie first helped out by buying Fortuin his entire cricket kit. And then he sorted out his education.

Through his cricketing skills,Fortuin earned half his scholarship to the prestigious St. Josephs College in Rondebosch. The other half (approximately R11,000) was paid by Charles. It was a princely sum,considering he had two other sons to provide for as well. The two,of course,are very close. Fortuin now spends every alternate week of his life with Charles and his birth mother Connie,who according to the boy,seems to be making up for all the time she missed during his formative years.

Now secure on the home front,Fortuin continues to be moving up the ranks. He played his first age-group international made his international debut against the England U-19 team during the Test series last year. And by the time the five one-dayers that followed finished,he had won his first Man of the Series.

In AB’s shadow

Today,Fortuin plays with the number ‘17’ on his jersey. It is the same as his idol’s,AB de Villiers. South Africa under-19 coach Ray Jennings is a firm believer that Fortuin has what it takes to take over his hero’s mantle. “Clyde is someone who has developed tremendously. He is very talented. He is a very busy batsman and has great ball sense. If he continues with the way he has been developing,then in two or three years time,when South Africa is looking for wicketkeepers,then he will be the guy for the job,” says Jennings.

Jennings has another interesting theory. While players from tough backgrounds usually bring that fighting spirit to the field,with Fortuin,it has been quite the opposite. “Sometimes the environment where you grow up doesn’t give you the option of taking advantage of your opportunities,” says Jennings. “He didn’t realize how close he was to international cricket. When he started with the team he was very quiet. He didn’t trust himself.”

Recognising potential

Knowing his potential,Jennings focused on Fortuin over the last eighteen months — empowering him with responsibility. The South African coach doesn’t think he is being hard on the youngster but sees the pressure he is putting on the lad as a way to prevent Fortuin being lost to mediocrity. “I have to challenge him all the so he grows as an individual. You may come from a very hard background,you may not be tough from a cricketing sense. If you don’t realize how good you are,then you sometimes wait for somebody else to recognise it,” says Jennings. “I recognise it.”

More than a cricketer,Fortuin success is equally important as a symbol. Manager Pillay puts it best. “Clyde had so little but he grasped on to every opportunity that he got,” he says. “He may have been an underdog. But he represents what’s best about South Africa.”

Today’s game: Final,India vs SA

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