Stiaan van Zyl, born September 19, 1987, is a stylish left-handed batsman for South Africa who also represents Cape Cobras in the Ram Slam Twenty20 (T20) challenge. He is remembered for his maiden Test century against West Indies in the match which South Africa won comfortably by an innings and 220 runs. Van Zyl possesses lot of intriguing facts apart from his name. Yes, did you notice that he has two ‘a’s’ in his first name and a ‘z’ along with ‘y’ following? As interesting the name sounds, there are further intriguing facts about the Protea cricketer. On the occasion of his birthday, here are eight facts about van Zyl:

1.  From bowler to batsman: It is interesting to notice the change these cricketers go through before opting for cricket as a career. While he was studying at the rugby-mad agricultural high school, Van Zyl fancied himself as a fast bowler but later went to choose batting over a bucolic life in the Boland. That is huge leap from a bowler to batsmen. At present, he is also a medium-pacer for the Proteas.

2.  A record precious for life after long wait: Van Zyl holds a precious record that nobody can steal from him; his century against the West Indies at Centurion last December was the 100th hundredth on Test debut. His turn finally came when Graeme Smith decided to retire from Test cricket. Indeed, van Zyl filled the void for short span of time. Since then, van Zyl has been unable to capitalise on his chances and has not been at his best in Tests. In the recently concluded New Zealand series, van Zyl managed to score mere 40 runs and remained wicket-less. ALSO READ: South Africa vs England 2015-16: Stiaan van Zyl backed by Linda Zondi ahead of 3rd Test

3.  From right-handed batsman to southpaw: Nobody would have had a clue that his father changed him from a right-handed batsman to a southpaw. This is one reason why van Zyl admires left-handed batsmen, be it Smith, Kumar Sangakkara, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden or Michael Hussey.

4.  Favourite Indian cricketer: The list includes all the key players and greats of Indian cricket right from Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly to the current generation Yuvraj Singh and Shikhar Dhawan.

5.  Sports Idols: Apart from the regular cricketers, he also admires Roger Federer and Hansie Cronje. The reason, what he gave was, “because they are humble and consistent, which I think are two important aspects when competing.” So a South African admiring his fellow-mate is absolutely not surprising. ALSO READ: South Africa vs England 2015-16: Alastair Cook, Stiaan van Zyl register unwanted record

6.  Cricket was not the first love: Every cricketer has gone through a phase where cricket was not their first love. It just happened. A similar story occurred with van Zyl as well. When he was in Grade 8, van Zyl tried playing all sorts of sports. He was part of the rugby team and even won a trophy for the same. However, cricket finally happened to him when he was selected for Boland’s Under-19 team. Van Zyl shared an adorable picture with his brother holding the trophy during his childhood. Can you guess who one is Stiaan here?

William Webb Ellis trophy. What a privilege.

A photo posted by Stiaan Van Zyl (@stiaanvanzyl) on


7.  Ram Slam T20 Challenge: Van Zyl is part of the franchise Cape Cobras for Ram Slam T20 challenge. He averaged over 50 for the Cobras in the summer of 2007-08. However, he is yet to go all guns blazing for the Cobras in T20 cricket. Yet, he is a prominent name for Cobras in Ram Slam. Van Zyl holds reasonable record of 988 runs out of 48 matches played. His best remains unbeaten 86.

8.  Name with double ‘a’: No pun intended, very few cricketers have double ‘a’ and surprisingly, the alphabetical order has gone backwards with regards to van ‘Zy’l. Hope you noticed the difference there.

(Shruti Hariharan is Content Writer with CricketCountry. You can follow her on Twitter at @Shruti_2890)