74.95 - it’s not just any number, it’s a magic number that recently made its way to the Van der Dussen household. On one of their hottest recorded days in the country, England were served with an ice-cold blast from Rassie van der Dussen’s willow at Chester-le-Street. His 117-ball 134 helped South Africa win the game, and it also took him right atop the batting average charts in ODIs - in only his fourth year in international cricket. You’ve already read that number at the beginning.
A right-hand top-order batter and an occasional leg-break bowler, Rassie’s envious first-class and List A record on the domestic circuit was proof of his growing appetite to spend more time at the crease, and it showed in his batting averages that consistently touched 40 and above. That hunger to perform further fuelled Rassie’s fire at the international level, where he adapted pretty quickly once the opportunity came calling in 2019. But it wasn’t before he left his footprints as a globetrotter chasing his dream - from stints in England, Ireland, Netherlands, Canada, the Caribbean and most recently, in India.
Whether it’s the fast-paced nature of T20Is, the tricky one-day format or the ultimate challenge of Test cricket, Rassie’s international debut in every format was special. Against Zimbabwe in his first T20I, he top-scored with a match-winning maiden fifty. Then came a memorable but heartbreaking ODI debut against Pakistan, where he fell just seven runs short of his first-ever international hundred. The same year, a half-century against England in his first Test outing showcased his capabilities and mental resolve to succeed in red-ball cricket. Rassie became the first cricketer to score a fifty on debut in all three international formats. The stars had aligned for this emerging star from Pretoria.
A few months later, he was named in the South African squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup. While the Proteas narrowly missed out on qualifying for the semi-finals, it was a tournament to remember for Rassie, who finished as his team’s leading run-scorer - 177 runs in five matches at a stunning average of 59.
2022 brought with it a deserving place for Rassie in the ICC ODI Men’s Team of the Year (2021) and his first IPL contract as Rajasthan Royals bought him in the dying minutes of the mega auction. Although he played just a few games, a determined Rassie made the most of his time outside the Playing XI - from participating in regular batting drills to working on the mental aspects of his game, spending time at the gym, engaging in team bonding activities and even helping his teammates analyse in the practice sessions.
“At the end of the day if you lie in your bed and you know that you did everything you could on that day, I think that is success.”
As someone who describes himself as ‘resilient’, ‘hardworking’ and ‘calm under pressure’, Rassie prides himself on performing in any situation, irrespective of the number of people watching him. It is this quality that has led him to closely assess every format he plays and implement his cricketing philosophy of ‘how I can put the team in a better position’ every time he walks out to bat.
And in Lara, Rassie found just the perfect partner for a wife. Someone who understands him not just as a shy and reserved individual, but also as a cricketer who prefers not to bring his work home. A qualified international cricket scorer, Lara quit her job as a Maths teacher to travel with Rassie and watch him play cricket whenever possible. She was also in India for his maiden IPL stint this season, supporting Rassie and helping keep his morale high throughout their time together in the bio-bubble. Like a proud and starstruck wife, she watched her husband be the team player the Royals needed him to be, not just on the field but also off it. After all, it was their combined love for cricket that brought the two of them together.
But it’s not ‘all work and no play’ for Rassie, whose calm exterior may give the wrong impression to those who don’t know him. Despite being on the quieter side, the 33-year-old has a natural sense of humour that came to the fore in an episode of ‘The Royals Podcast’ featuring him, Jimmy Neesham and Trent Boult. When he’s batting, there’s almost a cloud of zen hovering over his head that doesn’t let him get carried away. Outside of cricket, he’s someone who loves going out for picnics and playing with his dog, and enjoys his role as a husband. His journey on the international stage may have taken off a little later than he’d have expected. But thanks to the abundance of experience already at his disposal, a career full of promise, unexplored potential and runs aplenty lies ahead in the years to come.