JESSE: [00:00:01] This is a very unusual way to start an episode of the podcast. But I wanted to do it this way, because my conversation with Mangi was a little poor with the connection. The bandwidth was just not cooperating. Now, that being said, we have to remember, we live in the future. And I mean that because I’m talking to a man in South Africa, over an internet connection. And we’re having a conversation about life and the troubles and trials and tribulations that people go through, Mangi’s a pro cricket player, he’s a pro cricketer. And it is my first foray into cricket, but also, not my first foray into talking to somebody about the honest thing is that we deal with.

So, I want to be clear that I have a policy that we basically do not edit conversations, because I want the athletes to come on the show to represent themselves in their own words. And Mangi knows this, so thank you, Mangi for allowing me to do this. We have edited our conversation to try to chop out dead space as we’re trying to have this conversation over the internet thousands of miles away.

And so because of that, I want to do this intro to be clear that we did edit this conversation. But I also want to say that, even though at times, it is tough to understand that this is a conversation that is very, very worth listening to. I got a lot of value out of it. And I don’t want to say that just because this is my show, but also because I think this is a man who has a lot to say about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a strong person, and how each of us can deal with the challenges that come in our lives. So, thank you for joining me for this episode. And I hope you enjoy it the best that we could do to clean it up.

[00:02:06] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today comes all the way from South Africa. I’m excited to have him because he is a pro cricketer and I know nothing about cricket. So, it’s a great way to get outside of my own bubble and learn about what the rest of the world is doing. Not just inside my own house, like we’ve all kind of been with COVID locking us all down. Welcome to the show, Mangaliso Mosehle.

MANGI: [00:02:32] Yeah, thank you very much for inviting me on the show. And yeah, I’m really excited. And so hopefully, you can teach you a little bit about the NFL and I can teach you a little bit about the beautiful game of cricket.

JESSE: [00:02:46] Absolutely. I’ll be the first to admit, in both cases, I’m not an expert on American football by any means. But compared to somebody who doesn’t watch it, then there’s plenty I’m sure I can talk about. The first thing I want to ask you is that — So, I was watching this interview done with another Sports Network with I think another South African guy who clearly knew what he was talking about. He had watched you, all this kind of stuff. And during that interview, I learned that there’s now two formats of cricket, Test and T20. And, as I kind of looked into it again, since I didn’t know anything about cricket — [crosstalk]

MANGI: [inaudible 00:03:28]

JESSE: [00:03:31] Yeah. Yeah, it seems like you play Test and T20 seems like it would be something that would be more popular in the US because we have short attention spans. So, give me a little bit of, I guess, history and what’s going on with that?

MANGI: [00:03:49] Yeah. So, when it comes to, like a Test format, it’s a format that started when the cricket game was invented? And when it comes to T20s, it’s a game that is like, so exciting. Yeah, so it’s like, so exciting, which it’s a massive market for like a lot of people to watch. So, it’s very different. But yeah, like a lot of people have taken so much engagement in T20 cricket because it’s like so fun. It’s short, it’s convenient. But Test cricket still stays like the ultimate game, you know? So, yeah, if that makes sense. Yeah.

JESSE: [00:04:38] Yeah. No, it definitely makes sense. The immediate thing that comes to my mind when I think about Test, like the format difference, basically, is like, I want to know from you like, how do you stay mentally alert to play a game that can last three to five days? ‘Cause, it’s like I said, we have short attention spans. So, baseball here is going to be the closest thing to cricket. They’re not the same in the least. But just except that you both have a ball to bat. A baseball game is going to last like five hours, which is essentially the short format with T20. So, how do you stay mentally alert for all that time?

MANGI: [00:05:23] The difference between Test cricket and T20 cricket is that Test cricket will always like test you not only as like, the game, but yourself as a person. There’s always different pressures of the game. And it will ask you like different questions. There’s times where you need to apply pressure, there’s times where you need to absorb pressure. And I think that’s what makes it beautiful that we get to play for five days.

And it doesn’t make sense to like a lot of people, but that’s what makes it beautiful. And that’s what makes it so hard is that it’s the ultimate of like what we do in our sports. T20 is beautiful, like you get to play in front of crowds, and it’s exciting. But Test cricket always like test your character as a person. And I think for me, playing like the longer format of the game, it has taught me like — or it’s tested my character as a person.

JESSE: [00:06:24] I know. So, I come from an endurance background. So, running triathlons, that kind of thing. And I definitely understand that aspect of it, where there’s something about the long-term test of something where it just keeps coming at you. It just keeps — it won’t stop. It’s not a matter of like, hey, we’re going to play for an hour, and we’re done. It just keeps coming.

And there is definitely a mental side of that, that I think it’s hard to appreciate. I think you mentioned in the interview, I watched with you that it doesn’t happen enough that pro players or anybody really works on their mental game nearly as much as we work on or you work on the physical side of play. Do you have any thoughts or tips on becoming stronger mentally to be able to deal with such a long duration of the game?

MANGI: [00:07:32] Yeah. I mean, it’s a tough one. But I think for me, it’s once you can understand the way you are, as a person outside of like the sport that you do, whether it’s like 100 meters, or whether it’s like football or whatever, and bringing that into, like your game.

So, once we understand then we understand there’s no difference between a person and an athlete. If we can bring those together, and then purely we can understand what we need to do. So, I think a lot of the times we separate the both, but the two actually like works together in hand from our personal experience.

So, for example, in cricket, is that if I struggle to face pressure, when I’m under pressure in Test cricket, the longer format of the game, that’s also b what we call it is that I’ll struggle to face like the situation, if I can’t face the heat, or if I can’t handle what someone is like trying to get me out, or like trying to get me distracted or whatever. And then that also applies in some sort of way in life. So, it’s just really bringing about the two together as an athlete.

JESSE: [00:08:51] Funny enough, that’s one of the things I wanted to ask you about is like the life lessons inside the game. So, last year, on the podcast, I asked every single guest what’s the purpose of sport, which is really kind of a way of asking does sport have any applications to life? So, are there any things that stand out to you that cricket has changed about you personally, that you bring into your everyday life?

MANGI: [00:09:25] Yeah. So, I actually like [inaudible 00:09:28] because obviously, like end of the year season, and everyone is posting about, like the end of their careers and some players are moving on, some players are retiring and some players are moving to different teams and stuff.

And I’ve thought about it, and for me, it was, I mean, the last three years have been very hard in the 13 years that I’ve played cricket. So, I thought about it and what I was going to say is that like the last three years of my career has been a tool for like what I potentially do after cricket.

So, cricket is almost sort of like a gateway for what I do, because I cannot play up until I’m 70. It’s impossible in cricket or in any other sports, whether you’re an athlete or whatever. But I feel that like the experiences and the challenge that we go through in our sports is some sort of way — a gateway to like what we need to do in life.

And when I met the people at [inaudible 00:10:38] I believed that they believe in what I believed in to be done and so they, a lot of swimmers and everything else, but they’re doing like what the game needs while they live in their purpose in — anyway, yeah.

JESSE: [00:10:58] And that gives you the opportunity to mentor younger athletes, correct?

MANGI: [00:11:03] Definitely, because I feel that like, in life, you cannot mentor someone without experience. So, for example, in NFL, if I’ve never been tackled, I cannot tell, like a linebacker, what it feels like to be tackled because I’ve never experienced that. So, I can have the knowledge, but when you have the wisdom, it’s a different story.

Because you would know what it feels like to get tackled, and like hurt your shoulder, or whatever the case may be. But if I’m a coach, or mentor, whatever, but if I’ve never experienced those feelings, and those emotions, I cannot relate to the athlete, and what’s nice about sports is that, whether it’s like swimming, or running, or whatever, but in terms of like, mental preparation, and like what we need outside sports, we can always all relate in the same level. And that’s the beauty about the game of sports.

JESSE: [00:11:58] That’s what I think about when I talk to a lot of people. And I saw when we had you booked to come on, and — I always had this moment of anxiety where I’m like, “Oh, man, I don’t know anything about cricket.” Like I want to be able to have a good conversation with you.

But then I think back to any number of conversations I’ve had with people who are weightlifters or baseball players or things that I just don’t get involved in, and it’s like, no matter what the sport is, often I find it is a game of character development of personal tests and seeing how strong you are internally, not just a matter of like do you know what a wicket-keeper is. Like, it’s not just a matter of terminology.

MANGI: [00:12:54] And yeah, I actually like that, because for some reason I’ve always connected so well with a lot of people that have done different sports, or different stuff that we have done. For example, Caroline, when I listened to her podcast, she speaks a lot about that she’s never really been like a typical player.

She always believes in like rhythm and that’s what took the best out of her — that’s what made the best out of her. And I think it’s the same with me although I play cricket. Is it like, I love like, flow, I love like creativity, I love [inaudible 00:13:31] differently.

With some athletes, they love structure, which there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s the beauty about sports is that you can be yourself and still get the job done exactly the same way. And I think for me, the journey is about discovering who you are, and applying that to your trade, because that will also be like a reflection of who you’d be outside your trade. That’s what I think.

JESSE: [00:14:01] So, I mean, does that — the interview I watched the gentleman asked you — so I’m trying to figure out how to ask this question without getting the entire explanation of how cricket is played for my US listeners. So, you’re a wicket-keeper, which is an important position, or I guess we’ll leave it at that. If you’re akin to baseball, it’s kind of like being the catcher, kind of, but probably more important than that. II mean, is that a matter of your characters speaking out and saying like I want to take the high-pressured job.

MANGI: [00:14:47] Yes, I’m glad you actually asked that question because I think being a wicket-keeper is a very thankless job because you don’t get to get appreciated. So, a wicket-keeper is always someone that is like encouraging. So, in cricket, so you always have to have the most energy, you always have to be like there for your teammates and be there for them.

And those are the things that a lot of people do not see. And it’s a skill where if you make a mistake, they’re like yeah, but you’re supposed to do the job. If you think you’re going to catch like, yeah, but that’s still your job. So, it’s like a very thankless job, which is like a very selfless job. Like, yeah, what people they like, great team, [inaudible 00:15:31] what life is all about, essentially.

JESSE: [00:15:38] It makes me wonder, do you like carrying around a big burden? I mean, that in a loving way.

MANGI: [00:15:48] Yeah. Yeah, I think it has to do with my personality. I’m just that kind of person. I’ve always been a firm believer in that like with wicket-keepers because you sometimes can pick up when a player is not doing well, or not playing to their fullest potential.

And that’s not caused by like, they’re having a bad day. Sometimes it’s maybe something that happened off the field, they’re fighting with like their girlfriends, or they had a bad day or whatever. And as wicket-keepers, we’re very encouraging as people. And I’d like to think of myself as that kind of person.

And hence, I love working with [inaudible 00:16:25] athletes, because that’s the biggest thing that they do and I want to be part of that, because that’s within my personality, besides being a cricketer. And it just shows on the field when you go and somebody said like a bad over. Or when someone’s had a bad game, you’re there to like, give them a hug, or like pat them on the back, whatever the case may be. And that’s just like, part of like, the personality, I guess. But for me, I’ve always believed that wicket-keeping is an expression of who I am.

JESSE: [00:17:01] It kind of leads me back and I’ve got a — I have to go back a little bit with you, I guess, as far as your life is concerned. Because you got started when you were young, I think you were 19. So, please correct me where I’m incorrect here. But as far as being — played professionally. It seems like maybe it’s we are — you and I are of a similar age.

Oh, I meant to say happy early birthday. I know that’s coming up soon. So, you’re just a year younger than me. But looking back, it seems like 19 is a pretty young age to get started as a pro. It seems like there’s a lot of pressure at that time. So, again, thinking about that mental game, do you feel like you’ve come a long way, mentally, or were you prepared for the pressure of playing as a professional at that age?

MANGI: [00:17:54] I never thought that I’d be a professional cricketer to be honest. And so I want to say like, randomly, but it sort of happened, because of the time when I [inaudible 00:18:04] was immediately after high school. And I was thinking about what am I going to do after cricket. And I was fortunate enough to have played like the under 19 World Cup, so just like Cricket World Cup for 19-year-olds.

And after that, I turned pro. So, everything sort of happened so fast, and I had like visions of wanting to play for South Africa when I was 23 but sometimes, like life doesn’t work like that. And my journey almost took like a proper left turn. And I don’t know, it’s like my GPS was lost, but sort of like, took like a proper left turn.

But with all of those experiences that I’ve learned, they have taught me to not only be a better cricketer, but a better person. And sometimes as athletes or sportspeople, we do not understand because we’re so result-driven we can not understand that a part of us is being an athlete, also need to be a good brother, or good sister, or good friend. So, [inaudible 00:19:17] when I faced a lot of challenges when I was young.

Because when I was young I was so naive. I thought the world is like, well, my road is going to be like so smooth sailing. But there’s been like a lot of setbacks. But all of those setbacks have helped me understand that there’s a process to everyone’s single life. And yeah, like being an athlete is just a part of me, but not the whole of me.

JESSE: [00:19:46] If I think back to being younger, kind of like you, there’s this idea, it’s like, this is what I’m going to do. Like in your case, like going to play with the national team by this age, and you have all these things mapped out. And it’s just a matter of work hard, I’ll get this, do this, get this done. And I don’t think that enough people talk about the setbacks.

Everybody has them. Everybody doesn’t matter if you’re the best in the world at what you do, or you’re just starting, everybody has setbacks. And it’s something that I feel like if we did a better job, preparing people to deal with tough times, the setbacks wouldn’t feel so big, because they’d say, oh this is normal. I know this happens to everyone.

MANGI: [00:20:51] And people have this idea that if you’re [inaudible 00:20:53] like superhuman, you’re not supposed to make mistakes. You’re not supposed to feel or go through what you feeling like. You’re not supposed to have like setbacks. You’re supposed to be smiling and sign autographs, and just be this amazing person. But some people go through like, a lot of stuff when they’re young, which sometimes like reoccur when they’re older. And I think like, the education that we should teach is that you’re first a human being, and then you’re an athlete. Like an acid is like secondary.

But where we get it wrong a lot of the times, like we lose our identities by thinking that like, I’m an athlete. Like, I’m a cricket player, and like I’ve played for South Africa, and like, I’ve played so many years professional cricket, and you forget that you’re a human being. Like when you finish practice, you have to be a human being, you can’t be an athlete when you meet your friends, you know. You understand what I’m saying? And we need to share with people and the truth that we share with people that being an athlete [inaudible 22:02] part of your life.

After that, you have to live. And my biggest thing, and my biggest experiences, like a lot of it at times with athletes that are coming to retirement, they struggle with this transition of like, leaving the game and becoming whatever they need to become. Purely because you’ve always been identified as an athlete. So, I think people should understand that they need to be identified as like a human being, and then an athlete’s secondary.

JESSE: [00:22:36] That thought reminds me of the mentality in like university or colleges here of student-athletes. And the coach I had in college always said, it’s student-athletes, student is first athlete is second. We’re developing you as a person and giving you an education, and then the athletics comes afterwards. So, it makes me immediately think about that. And speaking of which, in that interview, I listened to you, I heard you mentioned, but you didn’t talk about it, that you do something, I don’t know what, with music in your downtime.

MANGI: [00:23:21] Yeah, I love music. So, I love music and golf, my golf game. So, that’s out of [inaudible 00:23:30]. But I love music. It’s something that helps me just chill. So, I do have like a DJ that I do in my downtime.

And it is one thing that I love doing and golf. And in South Africa, well, in America, you guys call it a barbecue in South Africa, we call it braai so that’s like a South African name. You know, so where you like put braai and where you put meat in a braai stand, and you chill with a couple of friends. You know? So, those are the things that I like doing besides playing cricket. Yeah.

JESSE: [00:24:04] Yes. You know, I don’t think that enough people, especially here and I don’t know what the work culture is in South Africa. But we have a very like work all the time kind of culture in the US. And I don’t think people value the time not doing something — not doing their job, not trying to be productive, like that downtime enough. Like it plays such a big role in like your mental health day-to-day and being able to deal with those setbacks like we were talking about when they come to take the time and just enjoy yourself.

MANGI: [00:24:49] Yeah. And [inaudible 00:24:51] in a lot of places so as we speak, but like the Coronavirus and the pandemic, like a lot of people have been struggling with like depression, because a lot of people don’t know, well, let me say, we don’t know what to do with ourselves. So, whatever that we were struggling with, you have said, and you don’t want to think about it, because it’s easier to get stuck [inaudible 00:26:18] like I need to work, I need to work [inaudible 00:25:20] or whatever.

But like, now you have to sit at home, work for a couple of hours, or train for a couple of hours and you’re sitting and you’re new thinking okay, [inaudible 00:25:33] I struggle with for like, the longest time because in South Africa, the culture’s like, you need to be a man. And if you kick your toe and you break your leg, you keep moving. So, that’s the culture in South Africa, you have to be hard.

But I’ve got feelings. Like sometimes I also need to go through, like challenging — sometimes I also need to go through setbacks, and I need to also be able to feel that life can also be tough. And I don’t [inaudible 00:26:05] that reality.

JESSE: [00:26:08] I think what can be difficult sometimes, and we have a similar mentality about men like you need to be tough, and you need to be all these things. I’ve talked about this with other guests that like, in my opinion, for what that’s worth, there is a strength, I think, in being able to feel the things that you feel, deal with them, and still be able to approach the problem that’s ahead of you.

I think you said getting kicked in your leg or getting kicked in your shin. And it’s like, I can still feel that that hurts, acknowledge and be like that sucks a lot, and then go, let’s not get kicked in the shin again, let’s deal with whatever made that happen. I don’t feel like it has to be one or the other. That you can either be a man or you can have feelings. I don’t think it has to be one or the other.

MANGI: [00:27:13] I mean that’s the concept we have in South Africa. In South Africa is that it happens you get on with it. It never gets spoken about. I listen to this guy that I follow on Instagram, Mr. Johnson, he wrote a book about Cry Like a Man, and he posted a video about one of the NFL players that committed suicide.

And one of the conversations or one of the guys that was on the interview, he said that when you’re young, and you’ve got like your baby sister, and yourself and the baby sister kicks the floor and she falls down and she starts crying, normally the attention will go to her, which is fine.

But if you’re a guy, and you do exactly the same thing, you’ll fall on the floor and you start crying, it’ll be like, yeah, get up and get on with it. You know? Which is fine, but like that almost creates a [inaudible 00:28:07].

And I feel like that is [inaudible 00:28:11] but we cannot express how we feel or we cannot find the words of saying, “Listen, this is what I’m going through.” Like, sometimes it’s hard when you have a bad game to go to your teammate and say, “Listen, I had a terrible game because you feel like you’re going to get judged,” or go to your coach and say, “Listen, coach, I’m struggling.” So, those things like we need to — are so critical for many athletes.

JESSE: [00:28:35] Do you feel like you have had any mentors that have helped you with that, that have helped you through working with that psychological aspect, that emotional aspect of the game? You know, instead of just taking that typical, I guess I’ll say South African approach as you’ve presented it to me, just get on with it. Did you have any mentors, do you have any mentors that say, that’s not the only way we can approach this?

MANGI: [00:29:13] Yeah, I do. I’ve got like a very good support structure. But like, as I said earlier, it’s very tough for you to express that. And the other day, like two weeks ago, we were two games away from playing and final. And I had like a massive breakdown because of everything that’s been happening outside my cricket life. And just said with like our physio, and I just burst out in tears and said, “Listen, I’m struggling.”

And that helped me out because he was willing to listen and not look at me from a judgmental point of view, but like a place of like, “Listen, I’m just here just to listen.” And we had like a massive connection. And we’ve always connected. But that helped me out a lot because then I was like, “Listen, I can’t keep this in, I need to speak about, like how I’m feeling because it’s overwhelming. It has a massive impact on my game. And like, I can’t keep it in anymore.”

JESSE: [00:30:21] Yeah, absolutely. Mangi, I don’t want to keep you too late because I know it’s late there. So, there’s a question I ask everybody this year, I want to ask you too, maybe this is — the answer to this is what helps you keep going to be able to eventually play for South Africa, even though you didn’t do it by the age you meant to. But I’m asking everybody, how do you stay motivated after you fail to reach a goal?

MANGI: [00:30:52] For me personally, I’ve got so much motivation from my family [inaudible 00:31:00]. But my — for me for playing for South Africa, it’s always been that my grams always wanted to watch my favorite game, which she did, and that’s a blessing.

But being in a situation to play with South Africa and play for so long in professional cricket is not about me, it’s about taking all the experiences and like the downfalls and the uphills, and the downhills and adversities or whatever you want to call it to help someone else. So, for me, that is my biggest inspiration.

JESSE: [00:31:39] I mean, I can tell just from you saying it how much your family means to you. And that’s something I don’t think we give enough credit to sometimes is our family and our support structure getting us through, whether it’s sports or life. So, thank you for mentioning that. Mangi, if people want to keep up with you see what you’re up to, where can they find you?

MANGI: [00:32:05] They can find me on Instagram, Twitter, my Facebook page. So, my Instagram name is @Mosehle33. Same as Twitter, and same as — Well, my Instagram handle is @Mangimosehle the belly, so Mangimosehle. So, that’s where they can find me.

JESSE: [00:32:28] Awesome. Thanks for hanging out with me today.

MANGI: [00:32:30] No, thank you very much. This was actually pretty cool. I actually really enjoyed my time. Thank you very much.

JESSE: [00:32:36] Absolutely.