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Proteas women want to get out on the field

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‘Hopefully we get on the park sooner rather than later and are not reliant on the Big Bash to get us some cricket before the World Cup because that wouldn’t be ideal.’ – Dané van Niekerk

SOUTH African captain Dané van Niekerk says she hopes her team will be able to play some matches before next year’s scheduled World Cup if cricket is able to be played again later this year.

With the Covic-19 pandemic putting all sports on hold, Van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp have been in lockdown, splitting time between domestic tasks, physical training and, in Kapp’s case, recovering from a viral infection picked up in the second half of the T20 World Cup that finished in Australia in the first week of March.

Cricket’s global calendar for the remainder of 2020 was the main topic of discussion at an International Cricket Council conference call among the national bodies’ chief executives yesterday.

While the priority is the men’s T20 World Cup scheduled for October this year, the Women’s 50-over World Cup which is due to take place in New Zealand in January/February 2021 would also have been on the agenda.

“For now, we have been preparing as if we are playing a World Cup in January and February,” said Kapp.

What kind of on-field preparation and outdoor training there will be for the players, will be dependent on the pandemic.

The Women’s Big Bash League which is scheduled for the Australian summer could end up being the only competitive cricket most players will have before the World Cup.

“The WBBL will be crucial with the World Cup coming up and there being so little cricket,” said Van Niekerk.

“Hopefully we get on the park sooner rather than later and are not reliant on the Big Bash to get us some cricket before the World Cup because that wouldn’t be ideal.”

The lockdown has also proved costly in terms of building on the popularity of the women’s game post a hugely successful T20 World Cup, which saw over 85 000 people attend the final at the MCG between India and Australia on March 8. South Africa were due to host Australia for ODI and T20 series shortly thereafter.

“It’s had an effect on the women’s game,” said Van Niekerk.

“It was such a successful World Cup for women’s cricket in general and it would have been nice to continue with that.

“We would have taken on the world champs just a week after the World Cup (which would have kept that momentum going). We’ve got a (50-over) World Cup around the corner where we can create hype again.”

Although she described the break as annoying and disappointing, Kapp also said that personally it’s had some benefits for her.

Over the long term, there’s the opportunity for a proper break after some tough toil in recent years, while it’s also given a chance to assess her health, which she’s been struggling with and which at the T20 World Cup saw her missing out on playing in the semi-final, which the Proteas ultimately lost in dramatic fashion to eventual champions Australia.

“I’m quite annoyed with the lockdown situation,” said the 30-year-old all-rounder.

“But my body has taken a beating in the last few years; I played all of the series (for SA), the Big Bash and the Super League (T20 tournament in England). So even though I didn’t want this break, it’s been a good break for me, and I’ll go into the next half of the season refreshed.”

As for the illness that curtailed her T20 World Cup, Kapp is still seeking answers.

“I was quite sick when I got home, I was off for three weeks, (but) I’m 100 percent healthy now.”