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Tour Diary: Into the homeground of Cronje, Donald

  • Published at 11:40 am October 6th, 2017
  • Last updated at 01:24 pm October 6th, 2017
Tour Diary: Into the homeground of Cronje, Donald
Bangladesh transferred their destination from Potchefstroom to Bloemfontein last week as the second and final Test match between the Tigers and the Proteas got underway Friday. From the beautiful city of Potchefstroom, the travel shifted to Bloemfontein, the capital city of the province of Free State. The city's Sesotho name is Mangaung, meaning "place of cheetahs". Sesotho is one of 11 official languages in South Africa. The venue, where Bangladesh and South Africa’s second Test is being played, is known as Mangaung Oval. The city was also previously known as "fountain of flowers" or "blooming fountain”. Mangaung Oval was the homeground of the famous South Africa captain Hansie Cronje. The tragic hero of South Africa cricket was banned from cricket for life after being proven guilty of match-fixing. He attended Grey College in Bloemfontein, a prestigious private school for boys. Cronje graduated as the head of his class after completing his matriculation in 1987. An excellent all-round sportsperson, Cronje represented the Free State (then Orange Free State) at cricket and rugby at school-level. Although his career ended due to match-fixing scandal, considered one of the biggest scandals in cricket history, Cronje was voted the 11th greatest South African in 2004. Cronje is considered South Africa’s most successful captain. Stats also prove his legacy. Under Cronje's captaincy, South Africa won 27 Tests and lost 11, completing series victories against every team except Australia.
He captained the ODI team to 99 wins out of 138. He holds the South Africa record for matches won as skipper, and his record of captaining his side in 138 matches is only bettered by Graeme Smith's 149 games as ODI captain. His 99 wins as captain makes him the fourth most successful captain worldwide in terms of matches won, behind Ricky Ponting and Allan Border of Australia and MS Dhoni of India and in terms of percentage of wins (73.7), behind Ponting and West Indies’ Clive Lloyd. Cronje died in a tragic plane crash in Outeniqua Mountains near George airport in 2002. The former Proteas captain lost his life when he was only 32 years of age. But his legacy still continues. His homeground Mangaung Oval contains many photographs and memories of Cronje’s successful playing career. The city also belongs to another South Africa great Allan Donald, fondly nicknamed as the “White Lightning”. The right arm fast bowler created history for South Africa cricket in this ground when he became the first Proteas cricketer to capture 300 Test wickets, during the first Test against New Zealand in November, 2000. When he retired, he was South Africa's record wicket-taker with 330 scalps at an average of 22.25. He also claimed 272 ODI wickets at an average of 21.78. Both these records have been overtaken by another great Proteas pacer Shaun Pollock. Kohra Lion Park in Stilfontein, Potchefstroom Before moving to Bloemfontein, it was a lifetime experience for this correspondent to visit some wild nature of Potchefstroom. It was a marvelous experience while visiting Kohra Lion Park. The Kohra Lion Park is situated in Stilfontein, about 40 miles away from Potchefstroom. It took 40mins from the downtown centre to reach there. On the way to the park, several game reserves can be seen. These game reserves are private properties. Some rare antelopes were seen en route to these reserves. When the Bangladesh journalists entered the Lion Park, its caretaker Yako and his wife Nadia welcomed us. Yako was preparing breakfast for the king of the jungle. Before entering the arena, Yako warned a few things to the five correspondents from Bangladesh. The advices were simple yet frightening. It was “Don’t go too close to the fence, don’t turn your back while being too close and stay as a group”. The Lion Park stands over 1000 acres of land. There are boundaries of around 12-15 ft. long with electric fence. And just behind the fence is the territory of lions, the king of the jungle. While entering the arena, Yako carried a big basket of chicken which would be thrown to the lions. Inside the first fence was a large lion with two lionesses. With the smell of chicken, the massive animal came slowly near the fence. The first sight of the king of the jungle and the way the lion came towards his food was frightening yet beautiful to watch as well. In the adjacent area, there was a lioness with three cubs. In the area close to that were three lions.

Lion Park #southafrica

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All of them were four years old and kind of aggressive in nature. A terrifying moment took place while taking a selfie with these three lions. While trying to capture a snap, suddenly a lion leapt up towards the fence and roared slightly. However, despite the slight roar from the king of the jungle, the fearsome and deep yellow eyes reminded this journalist of the warning: Don’t turn your back on them. For a moment the heart-beat skipped a beat upon realising that terror is just a few feet away and the distance with the lions is only separated by a fence. Then there were three fully grown lions in another fence. The mightiness of the beautiful creature was brilliant to watch. A total of 23 lions were there at the Lion Park. Lions and lionesses at different fences have been given different names like Goliath (meaning giant), Jesingi (pretty face) and Sasa (sister). Although all the lions and lionesses were inside the fence, the atmosphere was absolutely natural and pretty similar to a jungle. The area is far different compared to a zoo, where animals are being held captive between cages.

Also read: Tour Diary - A taxi driver with Federer’s signature cap

Lions roam around thousands of acres. The only thing that separates them from the humans walking within that path is the 12-15 ft. long fence. The last attraction of the park was when this correspondent happened to play with a lion. Yes, you heard it right, to play with a lion. However, he is only six weeks old and named Koning, which means King. The lion cub reminds this journalist of Simba, the famous character in Disney cartoon. To play with a six-week lion cub was really enjoying. Before leaving Lion Park, a short notice at the entrance gate caught the attention. The notice said, “Beware: Trespassers will be eaten”. What a warning. It really meant, beware, in front of you is the territory of the king of the jungle. And so the Potchefstroom journey ended with a touch of Africa, the wild and beautiful Africa.
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