St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Personalities St George's Park - Dave Callaghan
Dave Callaghan

For many in 1987, the batting of David John Callaghan was a revelation. They had never seen him bat so consistently, score runs so regularly, so aggressively. He had become a match-winner overnight, it seemed, a national star in a country where these were in desperately short supply.

Yet those who monitored the career of this strokemaker from the Eastern Province since school days will have been only too aware that there was a star in the making.

Dave Callaghan had the makings of a great player. It escaped the attention of many cricket followers that Callaghan was a member of a great schools side, the 1983 side which toured England under the name, Albatrosses.

That side contained Mark Rushmere (also a Cricketer of the Year), Dave Rundle, Daryll Cullinan, Meyrick Pringle and Salieg Nackerdien, among others. All made a significant contribution to South African cricket last season, and have in just five years become pillars of the cricketing scene.

Callaghan had seemed like just another Bob Whyte or Russell Fensham, a player possessing all the shots, yet unable to resist truly good bowler, and lacking the technique for sizable scores.

He came into the cricket scene after representing the rugby side for most of the season at centre, and earning a good deal of respect in the position. It was soon apparent that he was a transformed player as he started to pile up the runs, but it was in the latter half of the season that he was to come into his own, as he made his first Currie Cup century against Natal, two half-centuries against Western Province at Newlands and then made half-century after half-century in the closing stages of the Nissan Shield and Benson and Hedges.

In the latter competition he played some innings of Churchillian courage, throwing the bat at everything with gay abandon when all seemed lost. His role could not have been easy, as he had often to come in at the tail-end of the strongest batting line-up in the country, featuring Rushmere, Philip Amm, Wessels and McEwan.

Callaghan's rich vein of form made them doubly formidable.

His courage was most evident in the Nissan Shield semifinal against Western Province at Newlands, when he took 3/11 in a rare display of seam bowling. Amazingly he was bowling with his jaw wired, after it had been fractured earlier in the season.

His bowling was truly a revelation. He had opened the bowling for Griqualand West while doing his military service, but he was generally seen as a joke bowler. He showed everyone wrong, turning in spells of true merit and lasting value. Perhaps his brightest moments were getting the scalp of Allan Lamb, twice, in Bloemfontein (to end the great innings of 294) and in Port Elizabeth, both times when all else had failed.

By the end of the season Kepler Wessels was using him as a genuine stock bowler, which would have given Callaghan great satisfaction.

He had the highest respect for Wessels, who he regarded as the best captain in the country.

"I would stick my neck out and say he is \he. best captain in the country. He is easily the most dedicated and spends a lot of time thinking about the game. He is different to most captains I've played with and has the Eastern Province team well trained."

Little wonder, then, that Wessels was his mentor. "He and David Trist (the Eastern Province manager) have inspired me, playing a big part in helping Eastern Province over the last two seasons. Like many batsmen who bowl a bit, he was enthusiastic to improve his bowling.

"I spend many months practising in the indoor nets in the winter and after my season with Notts I hope to come back as a recognised allrounder and not as a batsman who can bowl."

What made the big difference in his play?

"I struggled for two years after my debut in the 1985/84 season, but I always knew I had the ability to do well in first-class cricket. All I needed was inspiration and confidence, which Kepler and David Trist gave me. They always believed I could make it in firstclass cricket with a bit of work.

"Then my season with Eastern Province rugby also gave me confidence and knowledge on how to handle big match situations. These, with a lot of work in the indoor nets in winter helped me through."

He is not a big man, yet he hit the ball with the power born of immaculate timing, the hallmark of a true strokemaker. In addition to his batting and more than useful seam bowling, he developed into a most capable and safe fielder close in, exactly what Eastern Province needed in the absence of true all-rounders.

His ambitions were to play a few seasons of county cricket and help Eastern Province win the Currie Cup. And one day to wear the green and gold. His ambition was fulfilled sooner than he realised.

Protea Cricket Annual-1988

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