Meet Namibia’s trump card, Ruben Trumpelmann

From growing up in a competitive South African system, to meeting with Albie Morkel in the Dubai airport McDonald's, it's been a rollercoaster Namibia national team journey for Ruben Trumpelmann.

Ruben Trumpelmann was the man of the match against Scotland on Wednesday for 3/17 in four overs. Picture credits: ICC

On Wednesday, Namibia’s Ruben Trumpelmann made headlines at the T20 World Cup by taking three wickets in the first over of an innings against Scotland, leading them to their first Super 12s victory. The 23-year-old left-arm quick speaks to Emerging Cricket about that spell, his early days in South Africa, switching to Namibia and what’s it like to play in his side’s historic T20 World Cup. 

Talk us through that record-breaking three-wicket burst in the first over against Scotland.

It was a magical over. Something I could have never imagined in my life. Picking two wickets is alright but three exceeded all my expectations. The bowling plan was quite simple. The pitches in this tournament are forgiving if you bowl a good length and keep your lines tighter to the stumps. That will be our general game plan throughout the tournament. Luckily for me, there was some swing on offer and I could capitalise on that.

You came back to bowl at the backend as well showing your range with cutters and clever use of the crease and angles. How crucial is it to have those variations in these conditions?

T20 cricket is a fast-paced game and bowlers are normally at the receiving end so those variations keep the batters guessing for as long as possible. It’s also about executing your variations because you may have 10 variations but you can’t execute even one of them so it’s important to keep two or three options you can bank on and those are the ones you should be using it at the right scenarios and the right time. 

You grew up in South Africa, played for the Northerns and University cricket. What was cricket like growing up?

Cricket in South Africa is an extremely competitive environment. It’s a place with tight margins where if you don’t perform or improve every day then someone’s going to catch-up. It is a wonderful place to grow up and in terms of cricket, you know you have to work harder than the rest. Talent simply isn’t enough. 

Back in September 2019, you were playing the Varsity Cup and Red Bull Campus Cricket in Dubai at the same time as Namibia were playing in the T20 World Cup Qualifiers. What was your discussion with Albie Morkel who convinced you to play for Namibia?

I was returning from the Red Bull Campus Cricket in Dubai and met Albie at the airport in McDonald’s, they were coming back from the T20 World Cup Qualifiers having qualified. I knew Albie from before because of our Titans’ link. I approached him and he asked me if I knew someone who had a Namibian passport. That’s when it all started for me. My dad was born in Namibia so I was eligible. For me it was an opportunity to play on the global stage. 

I was at a stage of my career in South Africa where I was just going through the system having completed my degree and I had a decision to make: do I fight for a place in the system in South Africa or do I go play the World Cup for Namibia? It was something I thought about a lot and in the end I made the right decision. 

With the Covid-enforced lockdown in 2020, you were stuck in Namibia for a few months waiting for your Namibian passport. What was that period like? 

I was in Namibia on a tourist visa for 8 months during that period. It was a tough time being away from my family in a new country, in which at the time, I only knew a handful of people. Luckily for me, the lockdown in Namibia was quite ‘chill’ as compared to South Africa’s hard lockdown. So in Namibia I could go around in the back groves, hang out with some friends and set up a few braais but it was a period that truly changed my life for the better. 

Coming from a semi-professional set-up in South Africa, you finally played a few T20s for Namibia against the likes of Ireland ‘A’, Titans and a few International fixtures in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup. What was that experience like getting a flavour of International cricket? 

I think our preparation going into this World Cup was excellent. With the World Cup being postponed by one year, it gave us more time to grow into our processes and refresh our skills. International cricket is something I’m not used to, competing against the best in the world. The Titans and Ireland ‘A’ were two quality teams and I knew I had to stamp my place down to be at the World Cup. We won a really good amount of T20 games going into this tournament and it was great to have that momentum knowing you could back your skills. 

You have known Albie Morkel from your time with Titans in South Africa. What’s it been like being coached by him in the Namibian set-up?

With the coaching brain of Albie, you know where you stand with him, you can ask questions and he’ll tell you exactly what he expects from you so that kind of clarity is really important. I knew what the team needed from me so my job to get the best result for them gets easier. Everyone has an off-day and an on-day and luckily for us, we have got plenty of all-rounders in our team with someone always ready to step up. 

It’s rare for any T20 side to have 4 left-arm seam options. What are the conversations centered around and how helpful is it to bounce ideas off them?

It’s awesome to have four left-arm seamers in the team. We can bounce around ideas and the fact that we can discuss different angles and tactics helps a lot. Sometimes as a left-arm seamer, people don’t understand your plans or action because there’s no one else that bowls the same thing but in our team, it’s really good to talk to someone like Jan (Frylinck) and JJ (Smit) who have got plenty of experience on the International circuit. 

How crucial is it to have the International experience of David Wiese in the side?

Having someone like David has made a massive impact in the camp. He really is an International player in its true sense, he has set the standards of being a professional sportsman. He has played around the world in so many T20 leagues and he just showed us what we need to do out there to be successful. He has been a huge support for our young bowling attack, especially for me as a mentor and I really hope I can implement those things in the coming games as well as in my career.

You come up against some of the greats of the modern game in Babar Azam’s Pakistan side, Virat Kohli’s India and Kane Williamson’s New Zealand. How excited are you to go up against them?

I can’t wait for that challenge. They’re best in the world for a reason and it will show me where I need to be with my game. I haven’t really set my targets on anyone but any wicket I get I’ll celebrate as hard as I can! At this stage you can’t beg and choose for something because one day is your day and the next day isn’t. I’m here to enjoy every moment and learn as much as I can rubbing shoulders with these cricketing greats and take it forward in my career. 

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