Sometimes, you just have to accept that being impartial is not always possible. The heartbreak of the Proteas in the semi-final made that a reality. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
There comes a time (for some more times than others) where a journalist just has to accept that being impartial is not entirely possible. Seeing the Proteas in tears after they lost their World Cup semi-final to England on Monday was one of those times.
My heart broke several times over this group of players who have worked, fought, trained and did everything else so hard only to be disappointed with two balls to spare. Ayabonga Khaka, the young bowler who is fast becoming one of the most economical in the game, celebrated her birthday with a heartbreak.
Their raw emotions seeped through the TV screen and into my lounge and as pictures of the opposition consoling them started to surface, I was, as the kids say, “done”.
Over the last four years, I have had the privilege of covering the team on and off. Seeing them develop from amateurs to professionals has been a delight.
As with all sports teams, what nobody ever sees or rarely talks about is the sacrifices made by the sides. Nobody sees the early morning starts, the lengthy times away from family, the training camps and frustration when trying to recover from a bad patch of form or injury.
The Proteas have dealt with this and more. Their gender certainly doesn’t define them, but it’s something we have to acknowledge.
Most of these young women started playing long before national contracts. They did not start playing cricket because they wanted a contract. They played because they loved the game and wanted to represent their country. They played because they wanted to make a change to other young girls and women like them.
There would have been times where they were teased and told cricket was not for girls. But they carried on. There would have been times where they were frustrated that they weren’t given the opulence and luxuries their male counterparts get. But they carried on.
They persevered because they love the game. And they will continue doing so even if the pay gap between them and their male counterparts still exists.
This loss will hurt them for a long time and that’s fine. Reflection is an important part of moving forward. But there is a sense of calm around the team – in loss and in victory – and as they kneeled down together as a group after that devastating loss, you knew they’d be alright.
You know they’ll be alright because this group has some of the best, most talented and most dedicated players in world cricket. And yes, they’ll stumble at times. But there are no egos here.
Even if Marizanne Kapp is one of the best all-rounders in the game. Even if, at the age of 24, Dane van Niekerk is one of the most promising spinners on the circuit. Then there’s Laura Wolvaardt, so classy she could be a text-book instruction manual. There’s Shabnim Ismail, fiery and fast. Khaka, reserved and reliable. Mignon du Preez, the former captain who knew when it was right to step away from the role. Lizelle Lee, who clobbers boundaries for fun.
The list of names goes on and will continue to grow because these young women have laid the foundations of something truly special. They – as well as Cricket South Africa and their sponsor Momentum – deserve endless praise for their efforts,
They are our trail-blazers. And they will inspire thousands to do what many have said is not possible.
Watch out for the golden generation, they are only just getting started. DM
Photo: Laura Wolvaardt of South Africa bats during the 2017 Cricket World Cup semi final between the Proteas and England. Photo:ICC Cricket
There are more skin cancer cases related to tanning beds than there are lung cancer cases to smoking.