JOHANNESBURG – At 23, Chloe Tryon now sees herself as a leader. It’s a tag she wears comfortably, with a smile on her face while not allowing it to diminish her output as a key member of the South African team’s batting unit.
When the team’s coach Hilton Moreeng speaks about how the core of the South African team has come together a long way, he’s thinking about Tryon, who’s been central to the journey the side has undertaken although she’s spent a lengthy period out of the game, having been told she’d never play again.
In 2014 Tryon was told by a doctor to give up cricket, a game she came across through her father when she picked up a bat as a three year old.
Just 16 years old when she made her international debut in a T20 match in the West Indies, Tryon seemed to have the magic touch. Her first deed as an international cricketer in 2010 was to take a wicket with her first ball – that of Stafanie Taylor, then just 19 and now an established superstar of the women’s game. Tryon seemed destined for big things.
But in 2014 the doctor’s advice put doubts in her mind. She had a slipped disc, and was forced to take a year off cricket. But despite that medical advice cricket was too important and as she puts it, “I did what I needed to do,” to get back to the highest level.
More recently, injury – though not as severe as the one she suffered in 2014 – has again inhibited her preparations for the World Cup, starting this weekend in England. She suffered an ankle injury, but it wasn’t catastrophic, it just stopped her from bowling.
Her batting was however vital to South Africa’s cause at the World Cup qualifier tournament in Sri Lanka where in the role as ‘finisher’ she was outstanding. None more so than against Pakistan, where following a rocky start, she came to the crease with South Africa on 129/5 and blasted 79 off 69 balls to set up a comfortable win.
Tryon’s spot in the middle order is a vital one for a side who’ve struggled for consistency with the bat. “The girls know individually what we have to work on against every other team, we must enjoy it. Sometimes, when we feel we are not good enough, we tense up, if we enjoy it, show our brand of cricket, the results will take care of itself.”
As part of the group that’s walked a long road together – including Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Dané van Niekerk and Mignon du Preez – Tryon’s been happy to take a leadership role within the side. “It’s been good to get the vice-captaincy. I’m learning along the way. I just hope to bring a lot to the girls once we’re on tour,” said Tryon.
Like many of her teammates Tryon has revelled in the extra publicity the team’s been getting in recent weeks as the World Cup approaches. “We’ve had more televised games, more people watching us, we’re playing the best teams in the world like Australia and New Zealand and England, I guess the image of us being a good team started and we’ve been growing as a good team,” she explained.
“The exposure was there. We’ve played really good cricket. The team’s really fit, we’ve prepared well. We’re expecting big things of ourselves and I think a few others outside are expecting big things from us too.”
“It’s very overwhelming, this is my second World Cup, there’s a lot more people around, we expect there’ll be some loud crowds there too. That plays a huge part. We just need to take every game as it comes, not jump too far ahead and deal with all the pressure.”
Although Australia, the current World Cup holders and England remain the favourites for the event, the gap between them and the rest has narrowed in recent years. New Zealand, India, the West Indies and South Africa all firmly believe they are capable of upsetting the apple cart.
Those countries have invested ever growing resources in the women’s game and the West Indies’ triumph in the Women’s World T20 last year has given the rest of the world a boost and indicated that no longer is it just a case of Australia and England marching into the final of ICC events.
“We’ve played teams like Pakistan, I’ve seen that they are really good, we won’t underestimate anyone, we will play every game with our hearts and show what we have,” said Tryon.
“I don’t feel we should put ourselves in any bracket. We must go there and prove ourselves. We’ve seen teams like Australia talk about us, how we’ve grown and how we’ll be a threat at the World Cup – we look at that as a good thing. We going there very confident and ready to play.”
Tryon’s looking forward to having a bowl again now that she’s over her ankle injury but admits, when looking at the rest of the South African attack, that she may not fit in.
“I’m fully fit, oiled and ready to go. The bowling unit is really strong, so I’m not sure where I will fit in,” she laughed. Van Niekerk will be relying on that extra piece of variety from Tryon to further increase the potency of an attack that includes outright pace from Ismail and Kapp and leg-spin from Sune Luus, and Van Niekerk herself.
Like her teammates, Tryon believes this is very much her time and she’s in a big hurry to prove it.