THE 2017 Hilton College first XI cricket captain Brandon McMullen is the kind of guy who quietly goes about his business, preferring to let his actions do the talking – and they sure are.
Intent on pursuing his passion, the young South African ventured to Scotland this year and it’s paying off.
Brandon, great to have you on KZN10.com, what has been your experience of Scottish cricket so far?
“Thanks for interviewing me, Mr Cook, it’s quite a surprise and much appreciated. My experience of Scottish cricket so far has been excellent, the cricket standard and the way the Scots go about their cricket is really good.
“What makes the standard so good is that many Scotland international cricketers play in the league I am a part of, which makes scoring runs and taking wickets that much more competitive.”
What teams are you playing or training with and what has been your reception by Scottish cricketers and the general public. Where are you living re city or town?
“I am playing for Stirling County Cricket Club, which is in the Western Premier League in Scotland. The Scots are awesome people and have made my stay in Scotland that much better, they have made me feel really welcome into their social and cricketing circles. I am staying in the city of Stirling which is situated between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“The Scots take great pride in their cricket and always have a competitive and winning mentality, which I love because I am a very competitive person and love to win!
“The standard in the Premier League is very high; this is due to the international players that play in it.
“The likes of former Scotland captains Richie Berrington and Preston Mommsen, the former Hilton College captain and outstanding batsman, play in the league, which gives the league that edge of a higher standard.
“I have been playing for the Western Warriors, which is regional cricket in Scotland, they are trying to push and class it as List A cricket next year, it is cricket just below the international status so all the Scotland players play in it, as it is like playing List A cricket.”
Your individual successes? I hear top of the Scotland league averages batting and bowling. Is there a club league and a provincial competition?
“I am in the West Premier League, but there is also a national league called the Scottish Cup, which is a knockout competition, and various T20 competitions.
“This season, so far, has been very successful for me. I have performed really well in all competitions.
“In all competitions I have scored 748 runs at an average of 47 with 7 fifties and 1 hundred with a highest score of 127. Bowling in all competitions I have netted 29 wickets at an average of 14.8 with an economy of 3.1 and best bowling figures of 5 for 25 in 10 overs.”
Phew! That is impressive indeed.
What was your reason behind choosing to go to Scotland cricket and do you feel you want to make a professional career out of cricket – what are your short, medium and long-term goals?
“The reason on going to Scotland was to better my cricket in experiencing new conditions and playing against different cricketers from around the world.
“Yes I do want to play cricket professionally, that has been my dream from when I was small. That is my lifelong goal – to play professional cricket.
“Short-term goals are just to get as much exposure and experience from playing a high level of cricket. Medium- and long-term goals are to play professional cricket and be the best player I can be!”
You captained Hilton in 2017 – It was a very good side – a few losses (the 102-run defeat by Maritzburg College on Goldstones in the first term (I think that might be a record MC winning margin vs HC) but with Dale Benkenstein as the first team coach I was astonished at the change in the side by the fourth term, the return match on Hart-Davis Oval where you guys subjected Maritzburg College – a strong side – to I think their biggest ever defeat by Hilton in history. To what extent did Dale’s influence have on the improvement in the first team, which has been amplified this year where they are arguably the best side in SA?
“Yes, captaining Hilton last year was a huge privilege, yes we were a different team in the fourth term, and how we went about our game was incredible – the boys did their jobs really well. And I believe we were the best side in SA last year too, and had a great season.
“And it is great to see the boys carrying on the success from last year into this year, staying on top of the pile again in SA – and the boys will hopefully remain on top by the end of the year to show the country the dominance of Hilton 1st team cricket in the last two years.
“To be on top for two years running will be a great achievement.
“Mr Benkenstein had a huge impact on us boys of Hilton – as a team – and certainly me as the captain. His cool, calm mind-set helped us as a team to play so well together in that fourth term, his countless hours he spent on us, there are no words to describe it.
“Not only his throwing so many balls in training but the way he prepped us mentally was nothing short of remarkable, he is a true role model and spectacular coach, he changed a good schoolboy team into a world-class schoolboy team last year.
“As the captain he let me do my thing and never interfered, he gave me all the advice I needed and I couldn’t have asked of anything better. He made us play as a team and not individuals and I thank Mr Benkenstein for all he has done for me!”
You had an excellent 2017 year for Hilton College with bat and ball – captaining the side very well – and apart from the emphatic win over Maritzburg College on the Jack Hart-Davis Cricket Oval in that momentous fourth term, also a more-than comfortable fourth term win on the Hart Davis over traditional rivals Michaelhouse, as well as a T20 rout of St Charles in the fourth term after they had shocked you in the Coca-Cola KZN Inland leg T20 semi-finals at the Saints Oval in the first term of 2017.
Did you enjoy captaining the side? Was the spirit in a young team – now doing so well – particularly good? Did the captaincy bring out the best in you as a player, as an all-rounder? And how would you describe yourself as an all-rounder? A bowler batsman? Your seam and swing bowling last year was outstanding and you had a reputation as a partnership breaker – I think you had among the best bowling averages in the KZN Inland province and could always be relied on with the bat, particularly when your team really needed you.
Then there was your KZN Inland selection, an achievement in itself as several very good players never made the side, and playing at Coca-Cola Khaya Majola Week in Johannesburg last December etc. etc.
“Thank you very much for those kind words Mr Cook. Yes, there are definitely some unforgettable memories from last year as captain.
“Captaining Hilton College was a huge honour and privilege, I loved captaining the team, the boys got the best out of me. They were so easy to work with. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to be a part of than last year’s side.
“The boys were incredible on and off the field, the laughs and banter around the Hart Davis… It was the best time of my life. And I believe this is why we were so successful. Being captain of Hilton was a dream come true.
“Yes I do believe having a young team in 2017 was a great thing, I say this because we as the matrics were a young bunch of boys too and with a younger team we could relate to each other better, which brought out the best in each other’s strengths.
“And I must say that it’s great to see the boys this year doing so well, most of whom were a part of last year’s team, and I’m sure you can see how good the younger guys from last year’s team have become, have gained experience and even more important, are using it to their advantage. I’m not at all surprised that they are again on top of the pile in SA in 2018.
“Yes I do believe that being captain did bring the best out of me on the cricket field. I say this because I feel like I’m always in the action, always thinking, and the sense of responsibility makes me play my best cricket and put together good performances for the team.
“I describe myself now as a batting all-rounder, a batter who bats 5 and opens the bowling, and this season in Scotland I have established myself and found out what my role is, and I believe that a batting all-rounder is how I describe myself.
“Yes I did play in the Coca-Cola Khaya Majola Cricket Week last year in Johannesburg and loved it. I also represented KZN Inland U19. I also played in the Cubs Franchise Week in Stellenbosch early this year, for Dolphins U19.”
Hilton College cricket through the age groups is definitely on a high this year – what do you put it down to? Is it a combination of the superb facilities, a hunger for cricket among the boys and coaches plus the school executive, a sense of pride in the cricket heritage Hilton carries, the support of parents, who always come out in their numbers every summer term Saturday, plus many Old Boys too, when they get a break in their schedule?
“It’s definitely a combination of all that, I believe. The support from the parents plays a huge role in the success of Hilton, the remarkable facilities at Hilton College are among the best in the world, a world-class coach in Mr Benkenstein, plus the outstanding cricket knowledge and experience of the likes of Mr Warren Kirsten, Mr Sean Carlisle, the fitness and conditioning professionals, Mr Schmidt and Mr Carey.
“These people have a huge impact and I believe it is a combination of these factors which have made Hilton College cricket the best in the country over the last two years. But at the same time one must never forget the hunger from all the Hilton College cricketers. Their love of cricket has played a huge role as to why Hilton this year are doing so well.
“Their urge to win is great to see – and seeing all the wins from all the Hilton College cricket teams across the board shows a true reflection of the foundations put in place all the way from U14’s to the 1st team.”
Your parents have been great supporters of your cricket, always present at matches – please say what that means to you? Plus anyone else who has had an influence on your cricket and life in general? What primary school were you at? And has cricket always been your first love?
“My dad Paul and my brother Grayson have had a huge impact on my cricket and in my life, they have taught and coached me how to play this awesome game and I would not be where I am today without them, and I would like to say that I am truly thankful for what you two have done for me.
“Glynis, my stepmom, she has been on the side supporting me through the years of junior school and high school when she had the chance, she would be on the side watching and supporting me through the good and through the bad. Thank you Glyn.
“My gran Shirley is a role model of mine. My family is everything to me, they mean the world to me and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them by my side.
“I went to Clifton Prep in Durban, and yes, cricket… from when I first held a cricket bat and ball… has always been, and will always be, my first love.”
Wow, it is wonderful to see such appreciation for family. Brandon I have really, seriously, enjoyed this. Anything else you would like to add?
“Thanks again Mr Cook, it was such a surprise hearing from you. I would like to say to anybody else wanting to play abroad, Scotland is a great place to play cricket, it will test your skills and test you mentally.
“I have a dream and I won’t stop dreaming until that dream becomes a reality.”
KZN10.com will be watching your progress, Brandon, please keep in touch.