Future looks bright for SA women
Cricket is on the rise in South Africa and the best players need to be taken care of so that they stay and play for the
ENGLAND won their fourth Women’s World Cup when Anya Shrubsole took six wickets to clinch a nine-run victory over India amid delirious scenes at a packed Lord’s yesterday. The home side looked in danger of defeat as India chased down their total of 228/7, but an astonishing spell of seam bowling by England’s vice-captain turned the game on its head in the most nail-biting of finishes. India were coasting on 191/3 when Shrubsole took the key wicket of Poonam Raut, lbw for 86, and the inexperienced middle order collapsed to 219 all out in the 49th over. Apart from her wickets, Shrubsole also played a key role in the run out of Shikha Pandey, collecting sharply in the covers and throwing back to wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor, when India were still in the game needing 14 off the last three overs. “It was an amazing game from start to finish,” she said. “It was a fitting final for a great World Cup.”
THE SOUTH African Women’s cricket team has adopted the slogan: #AlwaysRising as a motto.
We find out how this team has lived up to the phrase ...
What has changed behind-thescenes that has led to this drastic improvement of the Proteas?
In 2014, Cricket South Africa incorporated the national women’s team into its structures at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria. But what does this actually mean?
“We sat down and identified the key areas of the women’s game that needed to be raised: Fitness, skills, discipline and game awareness,” says CSA High Performance Manager Vincent Barnes. In order to attain these goals, coaching staff were assigned to the team, along with a fitness trainer and physio. All these support staff were placed on full-time contracts.
“I receive their detailed reports immediately after every game,” says Barnes.
But how could the women be expected to train like professionals if they aren’t all professionals?
CSA have awarded 14 women national contracts. They are categorised, in the same manner as their male counterparts, in levels A, B and C.
“Being professional is not only about being paid to play. There is a responsibility that comes with it. It is about arriving at a national camp in the correct physical shape. Taking accountability for actions. “Realising that playing for the national team you are a role-model for thousands,” Barnes explained.
So can we expect CSA to hold on to talented cricketers like opening bat Laura Wolvaardt, The highly-skilled 18-year-old is a Grade 12 leaner at Parklands College in Cape Town with a desire to pursue a career in medicine. In the past, South African women’s cricket has also lost players to other sport codes such as javelin (Olympic silver medallist Sunette Viljoen) and golf (Johmari Logtenberg). “I’ve sat down with Laura and her parents and we’re working on a compromise. We cannot afford cricketers to drop out of the system,” Barnes said. “A plan is being made where she could possibly take a gap year and then head off to Stellenbosch. At the moment though she first has her Matric to see to.”
What structures are there below national team to improve the depth of players?
At youth level, women’s cricket is played from Mini-Cricket through to U-19. There is also a national U-19 week, while the 11 affiliates are involved in a senior inter-provincial competition. Besides the national team, there is a SA Emerging Women’s team, which is similar to the Men’s South Africa “A” team. There is also the National Academy.
“The pipeline is crucial to sustainability of the Proteas. Although we finding lots of girls drop out after mini-cricket, there are discussions being held where we can maintain the interest at that age-level by possibly playing with a softer ball all the way through to U-13. It is essential the love of the game is maintained,” Barnes said.
He is also a big believer in the “more women play, the more women will improve” with Dane van Niekerk’s Proteas having played 33 percent more ODI’s than any other team in the build-up to the World Cup. “We played series against Ireland, Bangladesh, etc … it’s all about providing the girls with the opportunity to play more. Series like those also allows us to test our pool of players.”
National team stars like Van Niekerk, Marizanne Kapp and Sune Luus all play in the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to not only supplement their income, but to also consistently test their abilities against the best players in the world. CSA, though, need to ensure they do not skip the domestic season for their presence on the circuit is essential in guiding young and upcoming players.
Have the Proteas reached their ceiling or can they improve even more?
The Proteas were listed sixth on the ICC ODI rankings ahead of the World Cup. They reached the semi-finals and pushed a powerhouse like England to the very last over.
“I am putting my head on the block here, this team can improve by at least 30 percent still,” Barnes boldly stated. “I think they can become a little more streetwise.”
This is not consigned strictly to technique, but also mental development. Coach Hilton Moreeng has begun to address this issue, and through the help of Saca (South African Cricketers Association), a group of psychologists was brought on board to worked with players in the build-up to the World Cup.
“There are unique factors in women’s cricket that players are confronted with and really helped the players to speak to someone about anything that was going on with them. It really allowed players to focus on just playing cricket.”