SA earn their tears

Look­ing to the fu­ture, Proteas women look to build on awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - CRICKET RE­PORTER

ROGER Fed­erer, win­ning his eighth Wim­ble­don ti­tle broke down in tears on Cen­tre Court last week­end.

It wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily a match for the ages but in the men­tal scrap­book of sport­ing events, one sec­tion is all for those mo­ments of vul­ner­a­bil­ity that make su­per­heroes seem hu­man.

Two days later, it was the turn of the women from South Africa to make an en­try at the semi-fi­nals of the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017.

Shab­nim Is­mail, bowl­ing at fierce pace, beat­ing the bat­ters, de­fend­ing three in the fi­nal over, had up­rooted Laura Marsh’s stumps with a blinder. At Anya Shrub­sole’s first­ball four through the cov­ers, though, she would fall to the floor in an­guish.

Marizanne Kapp cut a for­lorn fig­ure by her­self at mid­wicket, un­able to move. Dane van Niek­erk held her head in her hands. Mose­line Daniels was in­con­solable. Others en­veloped team­mates in hugs, sob­bing.

Teams of­ten say they ‘left ev­ery­thing out there’. At mo­ments like this, you truly be­lieve them.

“We’ve been on the road the last four years, we’re fam­ily. If one cries, all of us cry, we all hurt,” said Chloe Tryon, the vice-cap­tain at post-match in­ter­view. “It hurts, but you can’t al­ways end up at the top. It’s been a good tour­na­ment, couldn’t be more proud.”

“If you were in our chang­ing room right now, you would prob­a­bly start cry­ing as well,” said van Niek­erk af­ter­wards.

An­other day, all the things that went wrong might have been an­a­lysed. The 20-30 runs short the team was. The in­abil­ity to ad­just quickly on what the play­ers said was a slow wicket. The 25 ex­tras. The missed chances be­hind the stumps. The runs given away from over­throws as the game got tense. The miss­ing spin at the death. The 19 bowl­ing changes.

“Any cricket match there will be mis­takes. We were fairly short. But the way my team went out there and tried to de­fend that, I couldn’t ask for more,” Van Niek­erk told www. icc-cricket.com.

“Hind­sight is per­fect sight,” added Mignon du Preez. “To try and say where it might have been wrong or to point fin­gers at any­one is not go­ing to change the re­sults. Let’s look at the pos­i­tives. We still made our­selves and our coun­try proud and I’d rather fo­cus on that.”

Most im­pres­sive this tour­na­ment has been South Africa’s marked im­prove­ment from even two years ago.

“First, the man sit­ting next to me,” said van Niek­erk, giv­ing her coach, Hil­ton Moreeng, a friendly bump on the shoulders, when asked to ex­plain the change. “He’s given us the free­dom to play our game. With the help of him and the skills he’s taught us and the val­ues he’s in­stilled in the side, we had a lot more free­dom. They way we got treated, all that was a lot dif­fer­ent to the past. He em­braced us as in­di­vid­u­als and tried to get the best out of us.

“Also, you have to com­mend the girls. They’re al­ways open to learn, they al­ways want to get bet­ter, they al­ways wan to get to the top.”

Moreeng is a low-pro­file coach who al­lows his play­ers to take the spot­light.

“We have to make sure we keep grow­ing. With ev­ery World Cup, ICC chal­lenge, we just make sure the team starts com­pet­ing against the top four. It was show­ing to­day, no one was able to call it.”

“We said we want to leave a legacy, and that’s ex­actly what we’ve done,” said du Preez. “We’ve shown the world that we are a force to be reck­oned with ... I hope that will in­spire young girls to take up the sport and that it will soon be a full ca­reer op­tion for those back home.”

There’s an­other small les­son those watch­ing should have learnt: Sport is noth­ing with­out pas­sion. There’s no shame in tears, when you’ve earned the right to shed them.

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