Mignon du Preez showers praise on Laura Wolvaardt

Mignon du Preez (L) and Laura Wolvaardt. © ICC/ Women's CricZone

Class cannot be hidden for long. Often, it is just a matter of one or two innings – sometimes one or two shots – to bring it to the fore. For those who’ve grown up watching men’s cricket, or follow it closely even now, would associate the word ‘elegance’ generally to left-handers – Kumar Sangakkara, Michael Hussey, Lahiru Thirimanne, Sourav Ganguly, Alastair Cook are some of the names who were almost married with the term ‘left-hander’s elegance’. Players like Damien Martyn, Ramnaresh Sarwan – both of whom were exceptional in their off-side play – and more recently Rohit Sharma, and to an extent even Ajinkya Rahane, and more than anybody else in the modern-day game, Kane Williamson, have ‘owned’ that adjective.

But it’s a matter of, as mentioned earlier, just that one innings or two for someone to reach such echelons of the cricketing world – getting effusive praise from peers, superlative adjectives from those who call the game, getting a tweet based on a shot that was played, why, even getting GIFs made out of those visuals that are etched in the minds of those who watched it forever.

Laura Wolvaardt had batted 21 times in T20Is and 49 times in ODIs before those two innings. And she had shown a lot of promise, enough to be a regular presence in the South African team since her debut. But the 22nd and the 23rd T20I innings showed the spark she always possessed. And just like that, she became the talking point for the power in her elegance.

Laura Wolvaardt in action. © Getty Images

Like many in the world, Mignon du Preez can’t stop gushing about the youngster’s class. “It was special, just the way she exploded into this T20 cricketer during the T20 World Cup was amazing to see,” she says.

“We all knew she had it in her, but to finally see her reaching her potential was really something special. Just the way she started – she is such a technically correct cricketer.”

And du Preez didn’t fail to mention about THAT tweet from the ICC, before continuing to lavish praise on the 20-year-old.

“I think there was a tweet from ICC that said if I can marry a cricket shot, can it be this one – it’s Laura Wolvaardt hitting over extra cover,” says the only South African cricketer to make hundred T20I appearances.

“She’s pure class. It was awesome to see her. She’s used to opening the batting most of her life. So batting in the middle order was really something new for her. And to see how she has grabbed the opportunity with both hands and stepped up and it was awesome to see her play the way she did.”

Wolvaardt came in at five on both the occasions she batted in the T20 World Cup. Against Pakistan, she exhibited her repertoire of strokes – special mention to the stupendous cover drives – to finish unbeaten on 53 off just 36 balls. Her knock gave South Africa the impetus they needed in the final overs, enough for them to win the game.

Against Australia in the semi-final, Wolvaardt walked in when all seemed lost. She quickly got into her groove, dishing out extravagant drives as well as a couple of sixes to finish unconquered on a 27-ball 41. This time, though, it wasn’t enough to see the Proteas through.

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While Du Preez didn’t single out one mastermind behind the youngster’s shift down the order, she did credit the captain, coaching staff as well as the management.

“We’ve got two devastating batters in Lizelle Lee and Dane van Niekerk at the top, when they really come off. I think we just wanted to extend our batting order and we know Wolvy is an extremely talented player,” she states.

“I think if she opens the batting she puts a lot of pressure on herself, thinking that she has to clear the inner ring or hit the ball extra hard to get us through, whereas in the middle-order when she comes in, the field is spread so she can knock the ball around and get momentum in her innings quite comfortably by just knocking it and hitting it to the sweeper and when she places it well like she did in both those innings she gets value for her shots. She can just play her natural game and doesn’t have to feel extra pressure by trying to do something out of her repertoire.”

When South Africa had toured India in 2019, du Preez had picked Wolvaardt as one of the players for the future for South Africa. Eight months down the line, she must be pleased to see the prodigy live up to the billing.

The full interview will be published on April 24 at 12 pm.