Proteas head to West Indies looking to build confidence ahead of ICC Cricket World Cup
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CAPE TOWN – South African cricketers don’t have much experience of playing in major finals for the national team.
And that’s a gender-neutral statement with both the men’s and women’s teams having suffered agonising World Cup semi-final defeats over the years.
It has never been a question of talent or skill, but rather whether they possessed the mental strength to perform under pressure when the lights were at its brightest.
But it’s the women that are looking to change that narrative with their performances for their respective franchises around the world over the last year. Proteas fast bowler Shabnim Ismail, playing for the Sydney Thunder, set the ball rolling when she became the first overseas player – male or female - to be named Player of the Match in Australia’s Big Bash League final in December.
Ismail’s new-ball partner Marizanne Kapp followed suit over the weekend when the veteran produced a brilliant all-round performance to propel the Oval Invincibles to the maiden Hundred championship title. Kapp was joined on the winner’s podium at Lord’s by her Proteas and Invincibles teammates Ismail and Dane van Niekerk.
Nearly 25 000 people packed into Lord’s to watch the final bulging the tournament’s overall attendance to 267 000 – the most-attended women's cricket event ever, eclipsing the 136 000 of the T20 World Cup in Australia.
Having players exposed to such mega events, and actually performing their skills under severe pressure, is a major positive step for the Proteas’ Women’s team as they look to grow their mental strength in the lead-up to next year’s ICC World Cup in New Zealand.
"It's still a painful experience for all of us who have been part of that [defeat in the Bristol semi-final of the] 2017 World Cup. Hence, the preparation towards this World Cup is to make sure we get through that hurdle of the semi-final because we as a team and the players have played extremely well to get into the semi-finals. It's just that last hurdle to get ourselves into the final and we can take it from there," Proteas Women’s team coach Hilton Moreeng said.
"If we look at the history of Shabnim, Marizanne, Dane, and even Mignon (du Preez) also - they have been involved in those finals at the best level but not in the capacity that we had last weekend.
"If they can handle themselves in that environment, the full crowds, and needing to execute their skills on the day when their backs are against the wall, to bring their A game, and put in the exceptional performances on the day, shows maturity of the squad. Also when you have the likes of Ayabonga Khaka’s and Masabata Klaas coming in there, and the likes of (Laura) Wolvaardt rubbing off their experience, the team can only develop into a stronger unit."
The Proteas have another mini Everest to overcome before the World Cup with the team departing for the West Indies on Tuesday. They have yet to win a series in the Caribbean and will look to change that over the course of three T20Is and five ODIs.