Moments after Marizanne Kapp guided South Africa to a first-ever win against New Zealand at an ODI World Cup, Dane van Niekerk, South Africa’s regular captain and Kapp’s wife, made an emphatic declaration.
As one of only six members of the 2000+ runs and 100+ ODI wickets allrounders club, van Niekerk is more qualified than most to make that pronouncement.
However, bare numbers do not do justice to the kind of impact a player like Kapp has on her team. Not that her numbers aren’t convincing. Kapp is also a part of the above club of six. She’s also the only player in history to score a century as well as take a five-wicket haul in ODI World Cups.
While her being the best allrounder in the world might be debatable considering the talent that is currently on show, van Niekerk herself can lay claim to that title, there’s little doubt that Kapp has been South Africa’s MVP in this edition of the World Cup so far.
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She is the joint-leading wicket taker in the tournament with compatriot Ayabonga Khaka and has been the Player of the Match in each of the two nail-biting wins against England and New Zealand.
Sune Luus, South Africa’s captain in the injury-enforced absence of van Niekerk and one of the best allrounders in world cricket, seemed to agree with that sentiment. “I think Marizanne has nerves of steel. She definitely takes it better than all of us could. So I think she's the right person for that time of the game.”
Kapp and World Cups go a long way. She made her ODI debut at the 2009 World Cup, where she only played two matches. By the 2013 World Cup, she has evolved into one of South Africa’s best players, topping their run charts and also being their third highest wicket-taker.
It was at the 2017 World Cup though where she announced herself as one of the world’s best, finishing as the second-highest wicket taker in the tournament - just behind van Niekerk. That tournament ended in tears for Kapp and South Africa, as they lost their semi-final against England by two wickets with just two balls remaining.
That experience, however, has seen South Africa learn how to handle the pressure moments better and Kapp has led the way. “She’s obviously played all around the world in all these kinds of situations. So I think she's a very calm hand, especially in situations like that. So I think she's just showing us all how to stay calm and just how to back your own skill and finish the game off,” Luus said.
Kapp is a serial winner in overseas leagues and tends to save her best for the big moments. She was the Player of the Match in the final of The Hundred as well as the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) in 2021. Kapp’s contribution to the cause goes well beyond her numbers.
On a day where she became the first South African player to take 100 away wickets, it was her composure at the end that saw South Africa over the line as she scored 34 off 35 balls on a pitch that New Zealand captain Sophie Devine described as “a tricky wicket where you never really felt in.”
Devine,who has been one of the best seam bowling allrounders in the world for over a decade now, was effusive in her praise for Kapp. “I think she is an extraordinary athlete. I think she's super talented with bat and ball – we saw her today with the ball that she just doesn't give you anything really and she certainly wears her heart on her sleeve and with the bat there I think that just shows your experience.”
Kapp’s passion on the field is second to none, be it diving desperately to make her ground with 35 needed off 33 in today’s match or having long chats with Khaka when South Africa needed one to win.
Even in the previous match, Kapp kept having long chats with Trisha Chetty and Shabnim Ismail, who eventually saw the match out after Kapp was dismissed with the target within touching distance.
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As someone who has performed a similar role for her country for most of her career and also played with and against Kapp, it’s probably best left to Devine to sum up what makes Kapp so good. “I guess I've had the pleasure of playing alongside her at the Scorchers earlier in the summer and I saw firsthand how dedicated she is to wanting to be better and wanting to help your team win and you know, she certainly put her hand up tonight and I guess finished the job for them. So look, she's a great player. I'd certainly love to have her on my team.”
While most captains would second that thought, it is van Niekerk who actually has her on team, both on and off the field and South Africa will hope for more magic from Kapp if they are to finally go all the way after some near misses in the last few years.