Cape Town - Power struggles in relationships are the norm. Even more so when there are dominant personalities involved.
So what must it be like for the leading women’s all-rounder in the world, Marizanne Kapp, to go home to her captain, Dane van Niekerk, every night at the end of the day’s play?
“I absolutely love it,” Kapp enthuses. “She’s my biggest supporter, and I’m hers. It was hard not having her at the World Cup. I knew how much she wanted to be there, and how much we as a team needed her, but she was supporting us every day and night wholeheartedly from back home.”
Kapp and Van Niekerk spent two months apart while the Proteas were battling away at the World Cup in New Zealand. They caught up for a brief holiday in the Maldives post-World Cup before Kapp needed to leave her wife behind again on Friday when she boarded a plane alone for the inaugural FairBreak Women’s Invitational tournament, starting today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
It certainly has been a testing time for the doting couple while Van Niekerk is recovering from her ankle injury, as they have previously been inseparable. Not only are they Proteas teammates and married, but they’ve also regularly played for the same franchise teams around the world.
It is only recently that they have been in opposing sides, as in last year’s Women’s Big Bash Final, in respect of which Kapp described having to bowl to Van Niekerk as “never easy”.
But overcoming the emotion of competing against her wife was not the only challenge Kapp faced. She had been consigned to her hotel room in the build-up to the final at Perth’s Optus Stadium owing to ill-health, and had only virtually participated in the team meetings.
A few words from the player of the match Marizanne Kapp on her first WODI 5️⃣-wicket haul and what it means to claim victory against England👌— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) March 14, 2022
🎥 ICC#SAvENG #CWC22 #BePartOfTheForce #AlwaysRising pic.twitter.com/D80OBh6Wx8
For the daughter of a former Hawks secret service agent, these proved minor obstacles, though, as she turned in a superb “Player of the Final” performance. This was also no one-off either, with Kapp replicating her brilliance in The Hundred final at Lord’s a few months later, where she once again stole the show on the grandest of nights in St John’s Wood. Only this time she had Van Niekerk by her side as the Oval Invincibles skipper.
It is not hard to imagine that in a different universe Kapp would be a multimillionaire already, based on her two Player of the Final deliverables in a couple of the biggest T20 franchise leagues. Were there a Women’s Indian Premier League auction, surely Kapp would be in a similar price bracket to mega-rich former Proteas Men’s all-rounder Chris Morris?
The FairBreak Women’s Invitational in Dubai could possibly be the gamechanger, but Kapp prefers to view the new competition as another chance to hone her skills, while being a massive opportunity for the ICC Associate nation players to perform on a higher platform alongside some of the best players in the world.
“I think it (FairBreak Invitational) will be good for women’s cricket. These leagues have helped my game. I like to work with different coaches. I feel that working with different coaches over the last few years has helped me,” Kapp said.
“So, when I play in these leagues, I am focused on working on my skills, focusing on putting in performances, and getting my team to win. I can only imagine how it will help the Associate teams and their players. They can learn from a lot of ‘big-name’ players.”
It certainly is likely that Kapp will play much more of a mentoring role at The Falcons with her new teammates coming from as far afield as Hong Kong (2), UAE (1), Thailand (2), Papua New Guinea (1), Sweden (1), Germany (1) and Bhutan (1). They will no doubt be eager to tap into Kapp’s vast knowledge acquired over 211 internationals for the Proteas.
“I am always willing to help. I am not the type of person that will just walk up to someone and offer advice. But if someone asks me, I am more than willing to help and share my knowledge,” she said.
At 32 years old, and having suffered the emotional trauma of yet another World Cup semi-final defeat with the Proteas – the third in her 14-year international career – Kapp would be forgiven if her mind had started drifting to a life after cricket.
Starting a family with Van Niekerk is a priority, and coupled with her health battles over the last couple of years, it would not be inconceivable for Kapp to follow her long-time Proteas teammate Mignon du Preez into retirement fairly soon.
“It is tough. And it is getting tougher – I am not going to lie,” Kapp admitted. “But for me, I would almost say that the health issue has been the main concern, because it's the health issue that has been keeping me out of the game, and not really the injuries.
“Yes, I’ve had a big injury just prior to the World Cup – shoulder injury – but I also feel that I am that type of player that keeps on going because if I stop I need to come back, and that’s almost tougher, so I will push through until I retire.”
Fortunately for the Proteas’ faithful, Kapp is not considering swapping her bowling boots for baby bottles just yet. The Proteas Fire still burns deep within and the motivation of a bumper tour to England later this year that consists of a Test, three ODIs, three T20s, and a firstever appearance at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham certainly has the competitive juices flowing again.
And then, of course, there is the small matter of a T20 World Cup on home soil next year.
“It is always nice to play for your country. We’re playing a Test match, the Commonwealth Games is something new, so there’s lots to look forward to. I’ll just take it one tour at a time,” Kapp said.
“Hopefully, I still have another three years, if that’s God’s will. I don’t think I will go any longer than that because obviously we want to start a family. All of my sisters have so many kids, and I wish I had one of my own.
“But I still feel the World Cup is the ultimate. It’s the one you want to win. I think maybe with us having a home (T20) World Cup next year, that’s our destiny.”