Amid the current boardroom shenanigans at Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the abysmal performances on the men’s team, the recent series victories of the Protea women in India have lifted some of the gloom that has descended on South African cricket.
Moreover, they have put women’s cricket firmly on the map in South Africa; their rightful place is now given. They have done more to promote cricket in the country – among all, not only women – than any male cricketer or administrator has done over the past two years. The Proteas are a force to be reckoned with in international cricket and players like Lizelle Lee, Shabnim Ismail and Laura Wolvaardt are true international stars.
We all know that South African teams, of whatever description, have historically struggled on the sub-continent. That makes the Proteas’ series victories of 4 – 1 in the ODIs and 2 – 1 in the T20Is all the more remarkable. Remember also, the Indians were at full strength, while South Africa toured without their regular captain, Dané van Niekerk, and lost stalwart, Marizanne Kapp, for the T20Is.
The ODIs were not only won, they were also crushing victories. After winning the first ODI by 8 wickets, India turned the tables winning the second clash by 9 wickets – a match that mirrored the first one in almost all aspects except the victor. But after that blip, there was only one team. The Proteas convincingly won the first two T20Is by 8 and 6 wickets respectively, before losing the final dead rubber game.
The Proteas excelled in blunting the threat of the Indian spinners. Of all the Indian spinners, only the experienced left-armer Rajeshwari Gayakwad came out of the series with her reputation unscathed. Lee was particularly ruthless against the spinners. She was the outstanding batsman across both series, amassing 378 in seven games (she missed the final ODI) at strike rates of 86.22 and 128.57 in the ODIs and T20Is, respectively.
Most heartening for the Proteas was the emergence of young, talented players like Nadine de Klerk, Anneke Bosch, Lara Goodall and Tumi Sekhukhune. They all made crucial contributions with bat and ball.
Women’s cricket in South Africa has outgrown its baby shoes. Their success means that young girls all over the country might now seriously consider playing cricket, even for a career. This could lead to a bigger pool of players. And the bigger your pool of players, the bigger your chances of success.
Ever since the men’s Test series loss against Sri Lanka in February 2019, the Proteas brand name has taken a hiding. The women have given CSA a starting point to rebuild the Proteas brand name, especially since the success was achieved in cricket-crazy India. It is now over to CSA to capitalise on the women’s success.