I saw a lot of growth in my cricket during the tour to India: Nonkululeko Mlaba

Nonkululeko Mlaba, Tumi Sekhukhune shine as KZN Coastal and Lions register victories

Nonkululeku Mlaba © Getty Images

South Africa spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba feels her game has evolved a lot in the last year and her immediate goal is to make it to the Cricket World Cup 2022 squad.

21-year-old Mlaba is currently undergoing two week training camp along with rest of the South Africa squad as they prepare for the home series against West Indies that’s scheduled to start in January 18. She said she has noticed herself how her bowling has improved from the time she made her debut in India in 2019 to her second tour to the country.

“I saw a lot of growth in my cricket during the tour to India. I made my Proteas debut in India (2019), at a time when I was still new and not used to the standards of international cricket, so going back there, I could see the growth in my game,” Mlaba said on Thursday (December 10).

“There are a lot of things I could now do compared to my first tour, including being able to think well about my game and not allowing too many distractions to creep in, things I struggled with before.”

“Firstly, my goal is to be a part of the World Cup squad because you never know if you will be in the squad or not but if I make the team, I am looking forward to playing a 50-over World Cup because It will be my first one.”

Mlaba, who bowls slow left-arm spin, featured in 12 international matches – six ODIs and six T20Is – during South Africa’s tours of India and West Indies where they registered series wins in both formats. She took eight wickets across formats with best of two for 22 that came against West Indies in a T20I.

“Even playing against the Indian players, who are very good, I was now able to handle the expectations and also study the players I was bowling to and what will work best for me against specific players,” Mlaba added.

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“In the West Indies, I had so much fun. It felt like I had played against them before and it wasn’t that difficult because I had improved my bowling and consistency a bit, so it was an enjoyable time and I could cope with any challenge thrown at me.”

Despite the success, it wasn’t all hunky dory for Mlaba as she found the challenges of being restricted to bio-bubbles on tours owing to the COVID-19 pandemic difficult to face.

“This year was an unusual one because of COVID-19 and a lot of the way we did things was different from the years before the pandemic, such as travelling for example, like when we had the tour to India earlier this year,” she said.

“You would normally get very excited about going on a tour like India, where you will be seeing the people and visiting different places. Now it is not as exciting because you know you will be in a bubble and you are restricted when it comes to going outside, such as going to the shops and experiencing the different cultures.”

Mlaba, who has featured in 21 international matches for South Africa so far, has also been working hard on her game and is looking forward to the different challenge the 50-over World Cup is going to pose for her.

“There are a lot of differences between 50-over and T20 cricket, so I will be experiencing something different, and I am excited to learn something new, learning off the experienced professional players at the tournament and the challenge of playing against the world’s best,” Mlaba concluded.