Andre Nel: 15 interesting facts about one of South Africa’s most controversial cricketers
Sweeps and reverse sweeps are Misbah-ul-Haq’s trademark: He loves to improvise © Getty Images

Born July 15, 1977, Andre Nel is a former international cricketer who represented South African cricket team. Nel was known for his abrasive and aggressive nature while on the field. Standing tall at 6’4, Nel carried a reputation of being one of the most controversial South African cricketers. On his birthday, Abhishek Kumar takes out 15 interesting facts about the man who once attempted suicide.

1.  Why cricket? Nel grew up in Boksburg, a city on the East Rand of Gauteng province of South Africa. According to Nel, in that area, people used to play rugby to show manhood but he chose cricket because he liked to be in open. “In the area I grew up in, quite a small town, a little bit of a rough area, you played rugby to show your manhood. I played cricket because I liked being in the open, but we didn’t have the coaching of an English school,” said Nel in an interview with Independent.co.uk.

Nel also revealed that it was his father who advised him to choose cricket. He was good in both the sports during his growing days. There are few more reasons behind him choosing cricket and one of them is his tall height and also because he had become a quick bowler too.

2.  Felled Allan Donald with a bouncer: In February 2001, Nel hit the headlines probably for the first time in his life and that too for the wrong reason. He felled his hero Allan Donald with a fiery bouncer in a domestic First-Class match. Nel burst into tears when he saw Donald was forced to leave the field. Later, it came to know that Nel was advised to bowl that bouncer to Donald by his coach Jay Rennings.

3.  Fined for smoking marijuana: Later in the same year, Nel was included in the South African One-Day International (ODI) side for a series against West Indies in the Caribbean. A day before his debut, Nel along with Paul Adams, Roger Telemachus, Justin Kemp, Herschelle Gibbs and Craig Smith were caught smoking marijuana in the hotel room. Nel and other cricketers apologised and accepted their guilt and gave an assurance that it will not happen again. Each of the cricketers involved in smoking marijuana were fined of 15,000 Rand.

4.  Drink and driving: In April 2003, during South Africa ‘A’ tour of Australia, Nel was arrested in a drink and driving case. The South African pacer was dismissed from the side and was sent back home to face disciplinary action and was banned for six matches.

5.  Fined: Later in the same year, Nel was fined for showing his tongue to Chris Gayle after taking his wicket in Johannesburg during the first Test against West Indies.

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6.  10-wicket haul: In the third Test between West Indies and South Africa at Bridgetown, Nel picked his only 10-wicket haul; four wickets in the first innings and then six in the second innings when West Indies were chasing 253. In both the innings, his common wicket was of Brian Lara and Courtney Browne. His maiden 10-wicket haul helped South Africa in winning the match by 86 runs and he was duly awarded with Man-of-the-Match award for his fiery bowling in the match.

7.  Gambhir-Nel fight: During the second ODI between India and South Africa at Bengaluru on November 19, 2005, Nel and Indian opener Gautam Gambhir were seen having some verbal argument. It started in the 10th over of India’s batting when Gambhir played a pull shot to a bouncer by Nel. The ball got the edge of Gambhir’s bat and went for a boundary behind the wicketkeeper. Nel said something to Gambhir after his follow through and in reply the hot-headed Indian opener said something to him. On the very next ball, Gambhir left the ball and after that he went for another boundary towards backward point. Already two fours in the over with one ball to go, Gambhir tried for another one on the last ball of the over but couldn’t connect it well and Nel once again did something uncanny but nothing continued from there.

8.  The famous Sreesanth dance: During the first Test between South Africa and India at Johannesburg in December 2006, once again something unusual happened because of Nel during India’s second innings, when Sreesanth came out to bat. It began after Nel beat Sreesanth through his bowling and went up to say few words. In reply, Sreesanth hit a six straight down the bowler’s head by stepping down the pitch which was followed by a little dance gig.

9.  Controversy over inclusion of Charl Langeveldt in his place: Prior to the South Africa tour of India in 2008, it is said that Charl Langeveldt was included in the side in his place in the Test team. It is believed that it all happened because of an order from Cricket South Africa (CSA) to select one or more non-white players in the team. Later, board president Norman Arendse denied all these things by saying, “When the team was presented to me, Langeveldt was in the team. He was always in the original team. The problem has been leaks to the media from the selectors themselves.”

10.  Extra marital affair: In September 2010, Nel was accused of cheating his Latvian girlfriend named Jelena Kultiasova, whom he met at the celebrity night club Movida in London’s Soho. Jelena was reportedly left heartbroken when she got to know that Nel was a married man. Later, Nel admitted his mistake and revealed that he had sex twice or thrice with Jelena and at that time his wife was expecting their first child.

11.  Attempt to suicide: Just after a month when it was revealed that Nel was having an extra marital affair and two other women came forward with similar allegations, he attempted suicide. His wife Deanne Weitz further confirmed that Nel was out of danger.

12.  Retirement from international cricket: On March 25, 2009, Nel announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket. In his final good bye to international cricket, he thanked his domestic coach Ray Jennings and his South African teammate Shaun Pollock. He represented his country in 36 Tests and 79 ODIs, out of which he scalped 123 wickets in longer format and 106 wickets in limited-overs cricket.

13.  Nightmare for Lara: Throughout his career of 36 Tests, Nel was nightmare for one of the greatest batsmen of all time — Brian Lara. He regularly troubled Lara in Tests and dismissed him eight times, with three of them being bowled.

14.  Teams: In his career of 15-years, Nel represented various teams including Easterns, Essex, Lions, Mumbai Indians, Northamptonshire, Southern Rocks, Surrey, Titans and South Africa.

15.  Coach: In September 2015, Nel was announced as the coach of his provincial side Easterns at the Africa Cup T20 tournament. Before this, he was already coaching at a school and a university academy.

(Abhishek Kumar is a cricket devotee currently staffing with Criclife.com. He can be followed on Twitter @abhik2593 and on Facebook at abhicricket.kumar)