JOHANNESBURG – “I’ve said this to you a million times,” smiles Proteas captain Dane van Niekerk, “we need to be more consistent.”
It’s a source of huge frustration for the South African captain and her players that they simply can’t string together performances of high quality over the course of a series and tournament. They know they are capable of beating the top sides, but to do so two or three times over has been out of their reach and most infuriatingly it’s often down to errors which they’ve committed.
On Sunday Van Niekerk’s team heads for the Caribbean, for a pair of crucial series against the West Indies. The one-day portion of the tour comprises the three ODIs which form part of the qualifying competition for the 2021 World Cup. Thereafter the two teams will play a five-match T20 series, a critical part of their preparation for the World T20 tournament that will take place in the Caribbean in November.
Van Niekerk is fresh off a starring role for the Surrey Stars in the recently completed Super League Women’s T20 tournament in England, where the standard of play provided her with a close-up view of how much the women’s game is changing.
“The totals being scored are insane,” said Van Niekerk, who along with Marizanne Kapp and Lizelle Lee, was part of the Surrey team that won the competition. “I never thought in my career, that as a team, we could score 180 but that’s what’s happening. The field restrictions of course makes a difference, but it adds to the excitement of the game. It’s a smart way to promote women’s cricket at the moment.”
Lee scored a magnificent century in that final and is arguably the most potent opening batter in the women’s game. Her aggressive style is exactly what Van Niekerk wants the rest of the South African team to follow, but that hasn’t always been the case owing to their inconsistency.
“It comes down to preparation and mental toughness. We have to be prepared to chase 180 and be comfortable doing it, that’s where the game is going. We need to adapt and get our plans spot on, the margin for error has become a lot smaller,” she said.
Fresh off a short break following her exploits for Surrey, Van Niekerk said she and national coach Hilton Moreeng would use the T20 series in the West Indies to assess the personnel with an eye on finalising the squad for the World T20. Of particular interest will be the performances of the trio of debutants in the squad; Robyn Searle, Tumi Sekhukhune and Saarah Smith.
“The three debutants are well deserved, they are exciting young players who’ve performed well at provincial level. Hopefully they push for a permanent starting spot, push the senior players because we want healthy competition within the side,” said Van Niekerk.