Nandre Burger’s crowning glory as he heads to Rajasthan ... the Land of Kings

The Proteas’ Nandre Burger gave the likes of India's Virat Kohli a hard time during their recent series. Phill Magakoe / AFP

The Proteas’ Nandre Burger gave the likes of India's Virat Kohli a hard time during their recent series. Phill Magakoe / AFP

Published Mar 9, 2024


Nandre Burger has never been to India. Let alone the northern state of Rajasthan – also known as the Land of Kings.

But that is exactly where he is heading next week to sample his first taste of the Indian Premier League.

Burger was signed last year by the Rajasthan Royals for his base price of Rs 50 Lakh (R1.1million).

It may seem like small change in comparison to Burger’s Proteas and Joburg Super Kings teammate Gerald Coetzee’s Rs five crore, which is approximately R11.1m, and even minuscule taking into consideration Australian Mitchell Starc’s record price tag of R55m, but for Burger it’s not about the money.

It is the opportunity to have a crack at the big show, the ultimate stage for the modern-day professional cricketer.

“I am crazy and excited for it. When I was initially signed, it hadn’t really sunk in because I was still focused on the Proteas and the India series,” Burger told IOL Sport.

“But now it has sunk in and I have had time to get ready and prepare for it. I am really excited. It is going to be a really cool experience.”

Burger has everyone around him excited too. A bit of a late bloomer at 28 years old, Burger is a fast bowler at the height of his powers – quick, intimidating, confident and left-handed.

He enters deep into a batter’s soul with that last attribute – being a south paw – accentuating the others. The pace, the bounce and swing make him excruciatingly more difficult to counter because of the angle and trajectory of attack.

Royals teammate Yashasvi Jaiswal will attest to Burger’s potency. The prolific Indian opener was given a proper working over in the two-match Test series in South Africa during the home summer when Burger claimed the left-hander’s wicket cheaply three times in four innings.

Jaiswal certainly benefited from the Burger examination of his technique as he has since taken out his revenge on the English bowlers in the current Test series, with two double centuries and three half-centuries.

But it was not just with the red ball that Burger made a statement against the Indians. On his equally impressive ODI debut in Gqeberha that preceded his Test bow by a week, Burger dismissed Ruturaj Gaikwad (Chennai Super Kings) in the first over before getting the better of Tilak Varma (Mumbai Indians) and the experienced KL Rahul (Lucknow Super Giants).

So, there is hardly any chance of Burger slipping into India unnoticed, especially with the amount of video analysis that is done at the IPL.

And even more so after Burger enjoyed a satisfactory maiden SA20 – 11 wickets at an average of 25.27 and economy of 7.94 – where he charged in for the Joburg Super Kings.

It was at the Wanderers where he continued his work with bowling guru Eric Simons, and Burger feels it has helped him prepare for one of the biggest assignments of his career thus far.

“I think it was a good tournament for me personally. I started off a bit slowly and then went back and did my homework in terms of what I needed to do better,” Burger said.

“Thankfully the execution got better as the tournament progressed.

“I think working with Eric, he is one of the best around. The way he thinks about the game, the tactics and the processes he puts in place are really good for me – one who overthinks – and he makes it as simple as possible for me. It allows me to run in and bowl as fast as I can.”

Burger acknowledged a further bonus that occurred during SA20. For a player that has suffered a spate of injuries over the past few years and required extensive rehabilitation to get him back on the park, Burger was simply overjoyed with the fact that he managed to get through the tournament unscathed.

“It was nice to be fit for all the games. That’s a big mental thing for me, having come off the past three years being injured and missing a season, and missing a tournament through injury,” he said.

“So having played the whole oneday competition, the home international summer and the SA20 is a big mental step for me.”

There was a slight scare again last week when Burger was forced to withdraw from the Western Province team on the morning of the five-day Cricket SA First-Class final at the Wanderers with a heel injury.

But the big fast bowler stressed that it was more of a “precaution” and that he was actually struggling with flu and was more concerned about his health than the actual injury.

Burger will get the opportunity to put his fitness to the test and hone his T20 skills when he takes the new ball for Province in two Cricket SA T20 Challenge matches over the weekend before he boards the plane for his IPL adventure.

He has also already touched base with Royals bowling coach Shane Bond, who acts as the Paarl Royals head coach during SA20, but is trying not to put too much pressure on himself and is just hoping to learn from legends like New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult when he arrives in Jaipur.

“It is obviously a great feeling when you put in all the hard work and you get rewarded for it,” he said.

“But at the end of the day I want to be better than I was yesterday. So I am never going to be happy with where I am at.”