CAPE TOWN – Proteas Women’s captain Dane van Niekerk is hoping for a bit of “Madiba Magic” to help propel her team to a maiden ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.
Van Niekerk’s team open their T20 World Cup campaign against 50-overs world champions England on Sunday in Perth. Preparations have gone well thus far Down Under, with the Proteas beating Sri Lanka over the weekend before putting in a competitive performance against hosts and defending T20 champions Australia on Tuesday.
The Proteas boast an experienced squad capable of going all the way with batsmen such as opener Lizelle Lee packing a powerful punch upfront. Equally, the team is blessed with an abundance of world-class all-rounders – a vital component of any T20 team – such as Van Niekerk, Marizanne Kapp, Sune Luus and Chloe Tryon.
Van Niekerk, though, believes it’s not just talent and skill that is going to them over the line Down Under, but also the spirit of late President Nelson Mandela and also Springbok World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi.
“Nelson Mandela said that sport can unite a nation, and that’s what we as sportspeople do, we try and bring the people together,” Van Niekerk said, speaking at the captains’ media day at Taronga Zoo, Sydney.
“If we do something special such as Siya, it would be a dream come true and that’s what makes it very special.”
Following a brief delay due to light showers, Australia has won the toss and will bowl first in this #T20WorldCup warm-up tie.@Momentum_za Proteas XI: Van Niekerk (c), Lee, Kapp, Du Preez, Wolvaardt, Luus, Tryon, Chetty (wk), Ismail, Khaka, Mlaba #AlwayRising #SAWvAUSW pic.twitter.com/FMrwaOsBd7
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) February 17, 2020
The Proteas will certainly face stiff competition to fulfil their dreams with Australia and England the leading contenders, while India, who is led by the impressive Harmanpreet Kaur, and New Zealand are also impressive and well-drilled outfits.
It is for this reason that Van Niekerk has embraced the fact that her team are being considered “underdogs” to lift the trophy at the MCG on Sunday, March 8.
“I don’t think we’ve done justice with the players we have in our team, so it’s probably fair to label us as underdogs,” the skipper said. “We don’t mind the tag, we’ve got a pool of players that are in the top tens of the rankings, so it’s time that we stood up and make the most of what we can do.
“It doesn’t quite come together when we get to these tournaments.”
Van Niekerk, though, does believe the fact that many of the players within the Proteas squad like herself, Kapp, Tyron, Lee and fast bowler Shabnim Ismail have all been exposed to conditions in Australia while playing in the Women’s Big Bash will stand them in good stead over the next month.
“I didn’t in my lifetime think I would be able to play in the Big Bash alongside some of the best players in the world, and it’s changed a lot of my teammates’ games,” she added.
“Lizelle Lee, Du Preez, Ismail, these players have risen in the rankings thanks to some of the exposure with and against some of the best players in the world in the Big Bash.
“You make friends along the way and the Big Bash is the best T20 competition in the world for women at the moment, long may it continue to be successful.”
PROTEAS ICC T20 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP FIXTURES
Sunday, 23 February 2020
vs England, WACA Ground, Perth
Friday, 28 February 2020
vs Thailand, Manuka Oval, Canberra
Sunday, 1 March 2020
vs Pakistan, Sydney Showgrounds Stadium, Sydney
Tuesday, 3 March 2020
vs West Indies, Sydney Showgrounds Stadium, Sydney
The Proteas ICC Women’s T20 squad:
Dane van Niekerk (captain), Laura Wolvaardt, Lizelle Lee, Mignon du Preez, Marizanne Kapp, Sune Luus, Chloe Tryon, Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Tumi Sekhukhune, Trisha Chetty, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Nadine de Klerk, Nondumiso Shangase.