Raisibe Ntozakhe with Cricket SA High Performance Manager Vincent Barnes
Raisibe Ntozakhe’s teammates call her ‘Slice’ on account of her size – which is, well, small. “Ja, you know, like a slice,” laughs Chloe Tryon, while indicating with her thumb and forefinger.

Good natured ribbing is key to ensuring a good team spirit and Ntozakhe, just 20 and having only made her international debut a month ago, is happy to embrace her moniker.

“The team is very welcoming, I never thought you could get such love from senior players, they guide you through the experience,” smiled Ntozakhe, who grew up in Alexandra, dreaming of representing Banyana Banyana.

“It’s been a very exciting ride for me, during the quadrangular series in Potchefstroom last month and at this (training) camp."

Tryon admits, Ntozakhe is a bit of a ‘bolter’ – a surprise selection – that adds even further diversity to SA’s well rounded attack. Ntozakhe, an off-spinner, counts Indian skipper Mithali Raj as one of her two international wickets.

“Getting that call to say that I was going to play in the quadrangular series felt like a dream,” she said. “I was so ecstatic and thankful that all my hard work was finally paying off.

"While I was hoping that a tour would open other doors for me in the future, I never imagined that a call-up for the World Cup was on the cards.”

“This is actually a massive opportunity for me. It’s something I’ve always wanted since I started cricket when I was six. When I got the call up, it showed my hard work was paying off, from provincial cricket to now getting selected. I’m looking forward to playing against the world’s best – Australia, New Zealand and England.”

Ntozakhe stumbled into cricket. While playing football at primary school, she noticed boys walking past the field where she played carrying “big bags” and was intrigued. It turned out they were preparing for a mini-cricket session. Ntozakhe asked to join in and got hooked.

“Soccer was my dream, I actually wanted to play for Banyana Banyana and now this has happened, and I’m playing for the Proteas ... I joined mini-cricket at primary school, I found I had the passion for it, loved it from the first moment, I grew up to that and never looked back to soccer.”

As a kid she had to play with the boys team at the Alexandra Cricket Club because there wasn’t a girls team at age-group level at the club. The Gauteng Cricket Board arranged for her to play for Kagiso Cricket Club – situated 45km west of Alex – which had a women’s team, which Ntozakhe now captains.

Ntozakhe attributes much of her latter success to the Gauteng Women’s coach Johnson Mafa. “He’s worked very hard with me,” she revealed.

Her 15 wickets in 10 matches for Gauteng in the Women’s Provincial League brought her to the selectors’ attention. “I definitely enjoyed my cricket this past season,” she commented. “I’ve been working really hard with coach (Mafa) to make sure that I’m at my best every time. He’s definitely one of the people I attribute reaching this point in my career to.”

Rather than just be a squad member, Ntozakhe is looking to make an impact in England and has bought into her teammates' thinking that they are capable of producing something special over the next few weeks in England.

“Our expectations are to play well as a unit, show a lot of character on the field. And bring the World Cup trophy home.”

For many players, the World Cup is a pinnacle in their careers, but this does feel very much like the start of the journey for Ntozakhe.

“I’ve thought about (an international career), I never thought it would happen at this age,” she remarked. “It shows if you have potential and you work hard enough then things like this will actually happen. International cricket was my dream, it’s finally here.

"I’m not willing to give up this spot, I’m going to do the best I can so I can stay here for the next 10 years. If I work hard, as I always do, put in the hours, then I’ll keep going forward.

"You’ll see more of me.”

@shockerhess

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