SA earn their tears
Looking to the future, Proteas women look to build on awesome experience
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.