Mathew Pillans – All things cricket

Mathew Pillans featured on The Sports Editor a while back and the speedster had ambitions to make an impact in England for
Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
After representing KwaZulu-Natal and the Dolphins, Mathew felt that it was time to push forward to play in arguably the worlds best cricket league and prove his worth. Mathew, at 6ft 6in, has been pushing to bowl as fast as he can (90mph) and make his mark on the game.

I caught up with Mathew to see how he is doing and what has been happening in his cricket world.

Mathew Pillans in full flight.

“Well I’m firstly going to take the opportunity to thank you for this and I hope what I share is useful.
For me personally, I had a rather difficult 2020 season. On the field I was like a deer in headlights. I knew my plans and what I wanted to do at the top of my run up but that was as far as I got.”

One aspect of the game that we tend to forget is the mental aspect of the game and that these athletes, such as Mathew, are met with challenging times. “I didn’t even think about field placings or any tactics behind constructing my overs. I was a robot just trying to run in and not get hit. I completely forgot what certain batsmen were looking to do. I was putting so much pressure on being perfect and only executing perfect deliveries would make me happy. On top of all the pressure I put on myself, when I would go online to try to find something positive I was welcomed to a barrage of abuse from
social media.

TSE: Mat, we spoke before and you seemed to be in a good space in many aspects. What do you lay that down to?
MP: Everyone gets into a bad space but in order to keep in a good space I have focused on the things that bring joy to my life. The biggest weapon I have is my family, my wife and daughter are my rock. Cheesy – I know but hey it’s true. Knowing that I come home everyday to such an amazing family with a daughter who runs up to me and gives me a hug makes every worry fade away. To her I’m dad and she loves me for that.

Another thing is that you’ve got to realise that no one is perfect and you need to understand that. Perfection is a great bar or standard to set knowing you rarely achieve it. No one can be perfect and we all make mistakes. Come game time, the opposition have been training just as hard as you to reach perfection. So guaranteed things won’t go your way and luck won’t be on your side at some point. I had to understand that and realise sometimes it just wasn’t my day or someone got the better of the situation. In cricket you need to forget about the last ball and focus on the next one whether it’s been good or bad. (Stay in the present.)

Cricket is what I do, it’s not who I am”. A phrase that’s stuck with me on my journey. Athletes sometimes get caught up with this and it’s so important to not get too carried away and try too hard that you end up where I was. You are not a bad person if you don’t get something right or mess up. 

The last one is my personal escape. Religion – being close to God

TSE: You have a desire to bowl 90mph. How close have you got to that number or have you reached it?

MP: I think lately this season I have had a good few games where I have been bowling really well and I’ve felt quick. Feedback from the coaches has been great and also from some of the lads on the field. So I definitely do feel like I’m really close to that, if not there.

TSE: With such a goal, does that show the drive Yorkshire has to push you to achieve in as many aspects as possible?

MP: I have worked really hard with our psychologist to get my mind in the right space and I’m enjoying cricket again. The last 6 months working with him has really made me enjoy cricket a whole lot more. This, coupled with Rich Pyrah my bowling coach backing me and supporting me has been a huge boost to my confidence and they have really helped me get to where I’m at and feeling good.

Pillans – Always on hand to disrupt the batsman’s plans.

TSE: 131 First – Class wickets in 41 matches. How do you feel about those numbers at the moment?

MP: To be honest, most of those were from my time in SA and I’ve not had as many opportunities here in the UK, understandably.  I really struggled and it’s one of the biggest things that had contributed to my mental health issue. I have only just discovered what I have been doing so wrong and that has been thanks to Rich Pyrah and a lot of searching and experimenting. It’s taken about 5 years of suffering knowing that I had been struggling but unsure why. I now feel better than ever and feel like I’ve found something that works for me and my bowling. I now want to fight for the opportunity to better these stats.

TSE: Reverse swing is something you have been working hard at mastering. Do you feel you are making strides in your control of swing?

MP: Yeah I’m pretty lucky that my “slingy” action helps me so much with reverse swing so it’s something that comes naturally when the ball starts to get scuffed. I feel really confident when the ball starts to reverse.

TSE: T20 cricket has been your focus at the moment. How has the league been going for you and has it been a good contest for places in the team?

MP: I really enjoy white ball cricket and I feel like I still have so much to learn. The great thing about where I’m at is that there are so many players willing to experiment and help each other out that it makes for a great learning environment. There is always plenty of competition.

TSE: You are obviously based in England but how has England managed to put out strong squads for each format?

MP: The county system in England is one of the best in the world. To have so many counties and so many games, players are always learning through the long seasons. The international players that come over and join the teams can only benefit the players who get to learn from them. The competition in numbers of players creates a really healthy environment for players to improve and progress.

TSE: How do you find time for yourself given such a busy schedule?

MP: As I said in the beginning, cricket is what I do and not who I am. So when I’m off the field I want to be off of it. I like to relax and get out and about exploring different places and seeing different things. If I’m really finished after a game then I’m more than happy to chill at home with the family. I think it’s important to have other interests and hobbies to do when you’re not playing cricket and try to do them. Otherwise, I feel it leads you back into being consumed by it. So when the opportunity is there to “Shut it down” it’s important to take it and have time for yourself and things that are important to you.

TSE: How is Duanne Olivier’s toe doing? (Mat broke Duane Olivier’s toe in a Provincial match.)

MP: Something we joke about on occasion. I don’t think there are any hard feelings. It hasn’t stopped him bowling quick.

TSE: Despite T20 cricket, what is next on the cards for you?

MP: Perhaps you can ask me this in a few months. Depending on how some situations pan out in the next month or two I will let you know.

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