“After a disappointing World Cup, a whitewash is really nice, we know that Sri Lanka is rebuilding as well but we are doing the same,” said Proteas Captain Dane van Niekerk after leading her side with a couple of inexperienced players to an emphatic 3-0 T20 international series victory.
“We are rebuilding to see how we match up against other players coming in from around the county,” explained van Niekerk. “Is pretty cool to see them doing really well and flourishing within the environment. We did a lot of introspection, we had to change the culture, and it started at the beginning of this tour. I think everybody bought into that and I think that made a massive difference with the way we are playing cricket at the moment, the badge is everything.”
Proteas new culture includes being aggressive in their batting approach and we saw that with van Niekerk leading from the front, opening the batting with Tazmin Brits who is striking the ball well. The fiery van Niekerk said they spoke about backing their ability to hit the ball and the brand of cricket they want to play.
“As the captain, I need to lead from the front, if I don’t stay true to the brand, who is going to follow? So I just try to stay true to what we spoke about and our culture, where we want to go as a side. As a captain I need to pick up my hand, is not going to happen all the time but is nice when I am striking the ball the way I am.”
As part of the new Proteas culture, Sune Luus was dropped after having a poor 2018 and van Niekerk said she was shocked but the decision to exclude Luus from the tour had to be made and it was a message to the senior players. Luus was fortunately re-called to replace the injured Chloe Tryon.
“You have to make those decisions, you have to draw the line somewhere and we did just that. At the end of the day, no individual is bigger than the team and the badge. If you don’t put in the hard work, unfortunately, that is the message to everyone myself included, if you don’t put the badge first and then you don’t work hard then, unfortunately, somebody else is going to take your place.”
The 25-year old was named the player of the T20I series against Sri Lanka after her impressive form with the bat as a stand-in opening batter in the absence of Lizelle Lee (out due to fitness reasons). Van Niekerk ended the T20 series as the leading runs scorer with a top score of 71 and strike rate of 137.86 in three matches. She also took three wickets.
“I was fighting with the coach and the selectors at the world cup. I really wanted to go at the top but I knew I had a job to do in the middle order especially with the batting line up being a bit scratchy. We tried to extend the batting line up if you can call it that, I love opening the batting, I have been doing it since 2014.”
The Pretoria-born nagged the coach in 2014 and was promoted to open, she nagged the coach again and it paid off once again. “I enjoy it, I really had a good stint at the big bash and I brought that straight into this series.”
The all-rounder backed the inclusion of young and new players into the side, she believes in giving those opportunities to flourish as cricketers, players such as Nadine de Klerk, Brits, and Lara Goodall are doing well and according to van Niekerk the juniors picking up their hands must be a massive message for the seniors within the side. “We can’t be complacent anymore, there is a lot of talent pumping through, is positive things, and is always good to have healthy competition within the side.”
“You have to bread new blood, you have to give them opportunities to flourish as a cricketer, tough decisions and all that but these players picked up their hands, they have done enough to get into the setup. I think the ladies came out showed the country that they deserved to be in the South African team, the way they about their job was brilliant to see as a captain.”
Van Niekerk is an excellent cricketer and she wants more Proteas players to take part in the Big Bash League to improve their skill so the team can perform better in competitions. “The big bash is leading the way at the moment when it comes to domestic T20 competition for women’s cricket, just the experience you take out, you playing with and against the best in the world.”
“Funny enough you build confidence playing with them and playing against them, you play 14 games is full on, is brilliant…hopefully we can get a couple more,(Proteas players). I would like to see some of them there (WBBL ) especially the youngsters so that they can experience more high-pressure situations and learn as players.”