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Back You are here: Home Sports Cricket Kwa Zulu Natal Calvin Savage- College Speedster!
Monday, 08 November 2010 08:00

Calvin Savage- College Speedster!

Sports clubs the world over are littered with the tales of former schoolboy sporting prodigies who never quite made the grade. 'Sure things' who were going all the way, until the responsibilities of life and the emergence of their own limitations came to the fore. These savageymen often sit at the corner of the bar as their colleagues reminisce of a time when they reigned supreme. This is not such a story; it can't be.

There will be no possible alternative to fulfillment; no compromise of the promise that is clear for all to see. This is a story of a young man who's journey has just begun, but is sure to include a path of enviable success.

Calvin Peter Savage was born seventeen years ago and immediately took to the game of cricket as if it was as natural to him as breathing. At an age where his peers spent countless monotonous hours staring at a TV screen, three year-old Calvin was obsessed with the plastic yellow cricket bat and ball set that his father had brought home. "I remember getting that cricket set and not being able to put it down.

I played the whole day, every day and couldn't stop".

A backyard chuck around is one thing; the daunting prospect of cricket whites, a pitch and a hard ball is quite another. The idea of the red cherry being hurled at you from 22 yards causes many a young boy a great deal of apprehension before he goes in to bat, whilst sporting pads that are invariably the size of the boy himself. They walk past the departing batsman and ask him one simply question: 'Is he quick?'

The under 10 opponents of Sarnia Primary wouldn't have concern themselves with such trepidation when looking at eight year old Calvin, but they would soon learn their lesson. Moving to Westville Senior Primary, the trend of Calvin punching above his weight continued when he was selected to play for the school first XI whilst still in grade five. Grade sixes (much like grade elevens in high school) playing in a first team is impressive; grade fives almost always indicate something extraordinary.

Whilst Calvin's star was on the rise, so too was that of Westville Boys High School. He lived in Westville, he attended their primary feeder school, it seemed a logical inference that he would be headed down Wandsbeck Road. Fate stepped in and had other ideas.

"I have a lot of respect for Westville, but something inside me always wanted to have that old-fashioned boarding school experience. Maritzburg College had shown an interest in me, but it's always a tough decision at the end of primary school". Not only did College present the opportunity to essentially live with his school mates, it also offered him the Jacques Kallis scholarship and suddenly his decision became clear. "There is such tradition with an old school like College. There's a sign in the change room that says 'This is Goldstones' and it's custom that you touch it before you go on to the oval. You realize that guys like Jonty Rhodes and Kevin Pietersen have touched that same sign and played on the same field and you're immediately inspired by that thought. You realize that you are a part of something far bigger than you".

Having arrived at College, Savage immediately made his mark as a player to look out for in the future.

In an early under 14 fixture against Hilton, he notched up 120 undefeated runs; his highest score to date. Even more impressive is the fact that, much like Shaun Pollock and Andrew Flintoff, he is considered a bowling all rounder, rather than the alternative that Kallis has come to personify.

If one is to measure talent identification by a school's sporting output, then Maritzburg College is near the top of the pile. Experience meant the school knew a burgeoning talent when they saw one and immediately promoted Savage to the first XI cricket team in grade nine. With College consistently fielding in excess of twenty five cricket teams on any given Saturday, this selection was sure to cause a buzz. It was not as if Calvin was young maestro batsman or nuggety wicketkeeper; he was the school opening bowler.

Today, the grade eleven pupil has amassed sixty-two first team caps and is a relative veteran of the squad. Once intent on mimicking the action of Makhaya Ntini, he is now content to bowl with his own unique action and play the game with the self-confidence that comes with experience. "I've learnt to play my own game" he says with a tint of hindsight. "I really admire Wayne Parnell as his story is one that I'd like to emulate, but it's important to play the way that comes natural to me". That is of course subject to the tweaking of Maritzburg College's first XI coach, Mike Bechet, who Savage lists as a major influence and reason for his wanting to attend College in the first place.

At an imposing 194 centimeters tall, Calvin Savage is the complete physical package; a fact partly due to genetic advantage as well as his professional attitude towards off field preparation and conditioning.

"I normally have an eight week break at the end of a season to recover and also to allow myself to miss the game. It means that when I do get back in the swing of things, I can barely contain myself. You get that drive and it's hard to stop". Calvin supplements net practices with gym sessions and hopes to get back into hockey next year (he did not play this year). "The gym side of it is a bit of strength work, but mostly staying flexible and athletic. Brute strength helps certain fast bowlers such as (Australian) Shaun Tait, but you'll notice that the bigger guys are only able to bowl for short spells. To be a test bowler like Dale Steyn, you have to be incredibly supple and that's what I'm aiming for".


A glaring undertone of that statement is Calvin's appreciation of the longer form of the game in an age where 'pajama cricket' is king. "Test cricket is the greatest honour, without a doubt. Twenty20 suits my attacking style of batting and I'm a decent death bowler, but if I had to make a choice, it'd be test cricket, without a doubt. That said, he still enjoys the shorter form of the game in its different guises. Ever the patriot, he supports the Dolphins locally, follows the Warriors in the Champions League and keeps an eye out for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL (due to the representation of Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and coach, Ray Jennings, who is also Savage's SA under 19 coach).


One of the great advantages of the life of a professional cricketer is the opportunity to see some of the most beautifully diverse places on the planet. His cricketing talents (and subsequent selection) have given him the opportunity to sample such a lifestyle and fill his passport. "I've had the chance to tour Zimbabwe with the SA under 19 side, England with my school team and Namibia with the Inland Men's squad. Not only do you see different cultures, but you get to test yourself against styles that you aren't used to. For example, the best batsman I have ever bowled to was in England against a guy who is originally from the West Indies". As for South Africa, who does he rate in cricketing circles? "KES are definitely the toughest school I've played against and at provincial level, you always find Western Province, Northerns and Gauteng are the real powers".


It is often said that statistics are misleading in the world of sport, but if there is one code where they prove to be near conclusive, it's the game of cricket. So how good is Calvin Savage, really? Well firstly he was selected for the SA under 19 team at the age of 16; with a year and a half left at school he averages a bowling speed of 128 km/h (135 if he is feeling really good) and he lives in a province that has embraced a policy of developing home-grown talent and giving them opportunities at the highest level.

"When I finish high school, I'd like to go the Dolphins Academy and eventually be contracted there.

Being a Durban boy, I've supported them my whole life and it's really encouraging when you see the senior side filled with guys who went to school in KZN and were given the opportunity to prove themselves for the Dolphins". When one considers that fast bowlers come into their physical prime at around twenty-eight years old, Savage is surely a worthwhile investment.

Despite his schoolboy admiration for Kevin Pietersen, he has no plans of following in his footsteps.

"I'm not really looking at County cricket at the moment. I'd rather do my best to make it here in South Africa and try push for a Proteas spot one day than to go over to the UK where a lot of South African youngsters are almost pushed to play for England. I'd like to study at Varsity College after school, possibly economics or marketing; we'll see when the time comes". When you're selected for an international under 19 side at the age of 16, ambition is not optional, it's a requirement. "In five years time, I'd like to have a degree behind me and hopefully would have played in the Champions League as a Dolphins regular. By the time I'm 24, my goal is to have played in the IPL and be in the Proteas mix".

For many a youngster, such bold aspirations would seem lofty. For Calvin Savage, they are simply a matter of time.

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