"We can beat any team in the world" asserts a confident van Niekerk

Women's CricZone Staff
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"We can beat any team in the world" asserts a confident van Niekerk

Dane van Niekerk in action. ©ICC

"I think I've said it a 100 times," says van Niekerk with great conviction. "We can beat any team in the world. It just depends on what we do on the day. In the recent past, we haven't been a consistent unit and that's been our downfall. We have worked on consistency and that just needs to clip. Hopefully, in a big tournament like the World Cup, like in the ODI World Cup last year, where everything came together for us, hopefully, it'll come together for us."

What will be a massive advantage for the South African team is the fact that they played in the West Indies last month. The two sides engaged in a three-match ODI series and five-match Twenty-20 series. Both ended in draws. The series gave the South African players an opportunity to get used to the conditions before they play there in the World Twenty-20. van Niekerk called their tour to the West Indies a "great learning curve," especially since they are also the defending champions. She summed up the tour by saying there were "some really good performances and some disappointing but, that's part and parcel of the game. Hopefully, we can go out there and play the attacking brand of cricket and nature we genuinely want to play."

van Niekerk previously made the "brave comment" that the best bowling side would win the World Twenty-20, because of the pitches in the Caribbean. She further elaborated on that saying, "I just found that the batting conditions, in general in women's cricket, with the four out and the smaller boundaries, is a bit easier. It's a lot more difficult to defend with four out on a spinner so, give the pace bowlers some stick about that. I think that's the main thing we're going to focus on; our bowling. Just getting our plans a hundred per cent. We fell short, getting a rude awakening in England, with the dimensions and the restrictions. A massive advantage in that we've got Shabnim (Ismail) back. We know she's going to lead the bowling attack alongside Marizanne (Kapp). That helps us a lot, especially with planning. She's got a lot of experience. Together with Marizanna, Masabata (Klass) and the youngster Tumi (Sekhukhune), they can get their plans going"

"Batting-wise," van Niekerk added, "it's just, our top-order needs to fire. I don't think in the last three tours, we've had more than two batters rock up. We need four, five batters to rock up and do really well for us. Hopefully, in the last two weeks, we've been home, a lot of batters did some introspection and are ready to go for the World Cup."

Initially, in the series, the South African batters struggled to adapt to the conditions. However, towards the end, openers Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt seemed to have found their footing. "We spoke in depth (about the conditions) after the series." commented van Niekerk. "It was difficult but, some of the youngsters excelled really well. Surprisingly well! We knew what they could do but, they did really well. They almost taught some of the seniors some lessons on how to go about those wickets. It's just about the raw talent, the bravery. The longer you play, the more you tend to overthink. I think that's something we, as seniors, forgot. Just play the game."

"The conditions aren't always what they seem but, it isn't as difficult sometimes as we make it out to be. Sometimes we just over-complicate the game, more than we should. We should enjoy it for what it is and what it's brought us. Hopefully, we can really enjoy our cricket at the World Cup. I know our team when they enjoy their game, the results take care of themselves."

van Niekerk believes that the World Twenty-20 "brings all the teams closer." 10 teams participate in it, compared to only the top eight teams playing in the fifty-over World Cup. This means the competition is more evenly spread out and no team should be taken lightly. Even the teams coming in through the Qualifiers have to go through a rigorous process of proving they are better than the others.

"We said we're not going to take anyone lightly," added van Niekerk, "We know what Sri Lanka can bring. One of their top batters scored a 170 against Australia in a World Cup. They have world-class players in their side so we're definitely not going to take them lightly. Obviously Bangladesh as well. We had a really good series at home, against them but, the conditions there suit the subcontinent teams a little bit more. They've got a lot of spinners and talented players. We just need to concentrate on our game a lot more than any other team and make sure our processes are right. Make sure we do what we can and make sure we win."