Life after cricket has been fun too: Jonty Rhodes

Hailing from a family of sports persons, he inevitably chose sports to be his career pick. While his mother played tennis, his father was a former athlete and rugby scrum half and a deputy headmaster at Merchiston Primary school, where Jonty Rhodes played in the First Eleven. Taking the unusual path, Rhodes chose bowling and batting, but shone in the area of fielding at the cricket ground.

A renowned player in the international cricketing world, with an extensive career of over a decade, in April 2013, he was appointed as the brand ambassador for India by South African Tourism.

Adgully caught up with Jonty Rhodes to know more on his cricketing experiences and more.

He began the conversation as to how and why his chose the sport as his career. He said, “My father was a firm believer in the value of fielding - If you didn't come off with grass stains on your flannels he thought you hadn't done your job. Coming from a family that loved sports, it was easy for me to take it up as a profession.

Speaking about the turning point of his life and share some of the key milestones, he said, “In South Africa’s 1992 World Cup with our captain's experience of having previously played in Australia, I was selected ahead of better batsmen. I think no one can forget my run-out of Inzamam-ul-Haq in the 1992 World Cup which got me a lot of recognition. I never looked at myself as an all-rounder. My job was to score runs and saving a few was an extra that I gave to the team. In South Africa, if you don’t play for two years, they forget you quite quickly. But in India the passion for cricket and the knowledge of the game in the public is something else. In the field was against West Indies at the Brabourne Stadium in 1993 when I took five catche. The catch of Sachin Tendulkar in Durban in a one-day game in 1997, that was special as well. He was a key player for the Indians and a lot of our game plan revolved around getting him out. From that point of view, to take a catch so low, and get him out, was very satisfying”.

Rhodes announced his retirement almost a decade back. Speaking about what were the works which excited him off the cricket field, he said, “When I ‘packed away my bat’ in 2003, I was fortunate to take up a full-time position with Standard Bank, as I had trained as a Business banker. However, I felt that I still wanted to be involved in cricket in some capacity, and so I started coaching the fielding teams for South Africa and am also the fielding coach for the IPL Team, Mumbai Indians. Because of the cricketing time commitments involved, Standard Bank and I agreed to reduce my position to more ‘part-time’. I am also associated with Epilepsy SA and in that capacity participate in various events and functions they host. I also spend a lot of my time travelling. Cricket always kept me busy with matches so never actually got the opportunity to explore countries at leisure. Since last year, South African Tourism in India has kept me very busy with multiple initiatives as their brand ambassador. Life after cricket has been fun too”.  

While he became the brand ambassador of South African Tourism for India last year, sharing his thoughts on the same and speaking about his favourite destinations in South Africa and in India, he said, “My work gives me the opportunity to travel across the world, but it has been traveling more out of compulsion than leisure. When South African Tourism approached me to write a travel diary for them, I was more than happy to work on it as this gave me an opportunity to revisit places in South Africa which I had not visited for a very long time. Post that trip, we decided to continue this association and I came on board as the Brand Ambassador to promote my spectacular country among Indian audiences. It is an honour for me to promote my country in India. Today, being the brand ambassador for South Africa in the Indian market gives me immense pleasure and big responsibility to promote my country in India. There is one thing distinctive about South Africa. It’s the fact that you don’t have to explore South Africa; the country unfolds itself to tell you it’s story. I want Indian travellers to experience their best holiday experience in South Africa and together with SA Tourism I hope to achieve the same. I always believe in being a wanderer and an explorer, that’s what I enjoy, being me. Talking about my favourite destinations in SA, Durban is very close to me since I grew up there and Mother City of Cape Town is where I live now. Additionally I absolutely love to spend time in the savannah and feel closer to nature and the Big 5 in their natural habitat”.

Adgully learnt that Rhodes has done endorsements more than any team-sport player in South Africa's history. Sharing his views on how endorsements play a key role today in life's of celebrities, he said, “I have always endorsed brands that I believe in whether it’s my relation with South Africa Tourism or being India’s Surfing ambassador. My brand associations in India and in South Africa have been very close to me. Brands approach celebrities because they feel that we will help them build an immediate connect with consumers. I am glad that people in India love me and all my associations help me implant faith in myself and the brands that I support”.

A native of South Africa and a regular at India, Rhode, citing similarities between both the countries said, “Indian culture is quite similar to our South African culture. Also geographically both India and South Africa are similar owing to the diversity of landscapes. We have a huge Indian population in South Africa with the majority living in and around the city of Durban, the reason for it being known as ‘Little India’. By being the brand ambassador to South African Tourism in India, I get to leverage the love for my country and my familiarity and fondness for India”. 

South African Tourism had announced the names of four lucky winners of ‘Take Me to South Africa 2.0’ contest few days back. Rhodes, shedding light on how social and digital media platforms are playing an important role in reaching out more and more people (travellers/consumers) said, “The response that we have garnered for the contest this year was extremely overwhelming and we are delighted to see such great enthusiasm for travel and adventure among Indians. According to the UNWTO, about 90% of all travel decisions are made online, this shows the significance of a digital marketing strategy for a Tourism Board. While choosing a holiday destination, consumers today opt for research on the internet for reviews as the first step to understand the destination and its varied offerings. Engagement is the key feature of social media marketing which has worked excellently for many destinations including us. Our Take Me to South Africa 2.0 campaign this year was an online contest where over 800 participants immersed themselves in an all new gaming experience”.  

Speaking of growth South African Tourism has received since last year and the challenges faced so far in terms of reaching out to the right TG, Rhodes said, “Indians absolutely love South Africa. South African Tourism had set a target to achieve 100000 tourist arrivals from India by 2014 but I understand they have managed to achieve that in 2012 itself. 2013 recorded 1 12 672 Indian tourists visiting South Africa which was an increase of 5.5% vis-à-vis 2012. This year we had few challenges but South African Tourism and High Commission streamlined and fast tracked the visa process. The first three months of 2014 welcomed 24 556 Indian travelers to South Africa. Together with leading travel partners, South African Tourism creates itineraries that etch forever in the Indian travelers' minds an image of South Africa as a unique, fun-filled and compelling family holiday destination. With a favorable exchange rate, a destination like South Africa becomes even more attractive for Indian travellers from a value for money holiday perspective”.

Concluding the conversation Rhodes, sharing his plans in the near future said, “I recently hosted a travel/fishing show that will be aired around the 2015 Cricket World Cup! Amazingly, even though I am no fishing expert, I still have the ability to "catch". In addition, I am looking forward to an action-packed year of tourism promotional activities planned by South African Tourism for me in India. I can’t wait to take all the four winners on an incredible journey of a lifetime as their guide and host. With this innovative and exceptional travel guide journey and a show with Discovery and TLC coming up later in the year, I am all geared up for more exciting initiatives to promote my home country in India”.


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