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

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ZAAHIER ADAMS CAPE TOWN

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.”

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