SA head­ing to WC as ‘dark horses’

It’s def­i­nitely due to our per­for­mances over the last 12 months, says Du Preez

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

ON THEIR KNEES: Pak­istan’s Fakhar Za­man kisses the ground as he cel­e­brates his cen­tury against In­dia in the ICC Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy fi­nal at The Oval yes­ter­day. Pak­istan com­pre­hen­sively beat their great ri­vals by 180 runs. with lash­ings of In­dian op­ti­mism in his pre-match presser, Arthur had joked that he thought his side could ac­tu­ally win.

He knew that, based on logic, on his­tory, on the gen­eral swing of things, In­dia were sup­posed to hold all the aces. But, they didn’t have a Fakhar, an Azhar or, most tellingly, a Mo­ham­mad Amir.

Pak­istan’s left-arm mer­chant bowled a spell of in­tox­i­cat­ing beauty and beastly.

They’ll re­mem­ber him for­ever now, the guy so good he got Kohli out two balls in a row.

They’ll re­mem­ber this side, too, these ma­gi­cians, these flip­pers of scripts and de­fiers of logic.

They are still singing on that ri­otous Ken­ning­ton Lane.

Pak­istan, Zind­abad. Pak­istan, zind­abad!!

What a team. What a story!

FOR A GOOD chunk of her now decade-long in­ter­na­tional ca­reer, Mignon du Preez was the face of women’s cricket in South Africa.

Be­sides her “nor­mal” du­ties as the then cap­tain – that in­cluded pre and post-match press con­fer­ences – she did all the TV and ra­dio talk shows, she ap­peared on mag­a­zine cov­ers and held as high a pro­file as any fe­male sportsper­son in SA. She en­joyed the spot­light – and still does – but these days, she’s no longer the only player as­so­ci­ated with the na­tional women’s cricket team and for that she’s very glad.

“It’s nice to see the girls tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity,” smiled 28-year-old Du Preez. “In the past they shied away, but now we are more pro­fes­sional we’ve said you need to be ready to build your own brand. In the past there were a few who didn’t re­ally like speak­ing to (the) me­dia, or they were shy. They’ve done some train­ing and we’re giv­ing ev­ery­one an op­por­tu­nity to be in the lime­light. I’m happy to share it with oth­ers.”

Sune Luus, cur­rent skip­per Dane van Niek­erk, Marizanne Kapp and Shab­nim Is­mail now all have much higher pro­files than was the case five years ago. That’s not to say they’re as well known as their male coun­ter­parts, but there is an in­creased aware­ness of their abil­i­ties, some­thing which will grow even more, if, as they be­lieve, they can have a suc­cess­ful World Cup.

Du Preez will be play­ing at her third World Cup and kicks off the tour­na­ment with a land­mark game – her 100th – when SA faces Pak­istan at Grace Road in Le­ices­ter on Sun­day. In her time in the team she has seen them go from also-rans, to this year be­ing viewed by many as a “dark horse.”

“Ten years ago when I started, we played about one or two games a year, since (last) Au­gust I’ve played be­tween 20 and 30 ODIs. It’s chalk and cheese,” ex­plained Du Preez. “It boils down to the in­vest­ment of Mo­men­tum, CSA hav­ing a fully con­tracted team, hav­ing girls be­come a lot more pro­fes­sional. We’re tak­ing it se­ri­ously, we’re do­ing it as a job now, it’s no longer just a hobby and I think that shines through.”

There are in­creased ex­pec­ta­tions of what the SA team can achieve in Eng­land, not so much from the pub­lic, but the team it­self. “It’s def­i­nitely due to our per­for­mances over the last 12 months. We’ve done ex­tremely well in the Cham­pi­ons League that we play, and the ICC Women’s Cham­pi­onship. It’s the best we’ve ever played. We’ve com­peted well against Eng­land, New Zealand, Aus­tralia and we’ve beaten them in one form or another. Aus­tralia is the only team we haven’t beaten, but we got a tie and lost off the last ball (in the se­ries played Down Un­der last year),” Du Preez said.

SA’s Achilles heel re­mains their bat­ting. Al­though they are a tal­ented unit, they’ve failed to match that tal­ent with con­sis­tency – the lat­ter an of­ten used phrase when speak­ing to the play­ers. “We’ve been open and hon­est – we’ve said that’s an area where we’ve strug­gled. We’ve had a lot of dis­cus­sions, as a unit we’ve talked about dif­fer­ent op­tions. Go­ing into this World Cup, we want to work on it,” said Du Preez.

As for her own goals for the tour­na­ment, Du Preez is clear about those. “I just want to be a con­sis­tent run-scorer for the team. I’m play­ing my 100th game at the World Cup, which is some­thing re­ally spe­cial. One of the goals, in an ideal world, would be to score a 100 in my 100th game. The team goal is to go and win the World Cup. In the past we’ve gone, where we sat and said ‘ya we can win the World Cup,’ but then when we got there, we weren’t pre­pared,” said Du Preez.

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