Laura Wolvaardt is only 22. But it feels like she has been around for a long time like many other child prodigies in the women’s game. In 2017, as a young player, she saw South Africa suffer a heartbreak at her first World Cup. Cut to 2022, she has already equaled the record for the most centuries by a South African in ODI cricket. The elegant right-hander has a cover drive to die for and is one of the most prolific openers around in the international arena with 2482 runs at an average of 44.82 in 66 matches.
Wolvaardt will share an opening partnership of ‘fire and ice’ with Lizelle Lee as South Africa embark on the quest for their first World title. The young batter believes this is Rainbow Nation’s best chance at a World Cup and is hopeful that their strong bowling attack will take them to world glory.
In a free-wheeling chat with Women’s CricZone, Wolvaardt talks about the 2017 World Cup campaign, Dané van Niekerk’s absence, her personal form, South Africa's favourite tag and much more.
Q: You had a great tournament in 2017; you were the leading run getter for South Africa in the tournament with 324 runs from seven matches. So how was the whole tournament for you?
I actually didn’t know that; so, that's pretty cool, but yeah, overall (was) very exciting and fun. It was my first World Cup of any format; I was just very excited to be there and very excited to bat as long as I could. I have very fond memories of that World Cup, especially with making the semi-finals as a team. So hopefully we can do the same this year and then take it to the final as well.
Q: You were sort of the baby of the team back then, how do you see your growth to one of the key members of the side now?
I was still very young back then. I've played a lot of cricket since then, played for South Africa a lot. I'm very excited to see this new tournament and what happens and hopefully we can make it to the final. And yeah, like I said, I can use that experience to my advantage this time. When the last time I was just a youngster playing (in the side).
Q: South Africa had a heartbreak in the 2017 semi-final, so how did the team deal with it and what were the learnings from it?
It was definitely a very sad day and a sad game for us, the fact that the game was so close as well. There were a lot of ‘what could have been’ thoughts and that type of thing. I think a lot of the players were quite hurt by that loss and it took a while to get over it. We have a really tight group right now and a really good group of cricketers. I'm very excited to see what we do this time. Hopefully we can play some really good cricket and put ourselves in a good position.
Q: Post 2017, you had a great time in ODIs. You are one of the prolific batters in the format, what work went behind it?
I think I just try to do the same things over and over. I try to be very consistent in whatever I do. I also pay a lot of attention to my technique and spend a lot of hours behind closed doors just working on specifics and that type of thing. But I guess all cricketers do that. So, yeah, I don't know. I think I've just stuck to my routines, and so far they've been working well. So, hopefully if they work well in this tournament when it really matters and I can get us off to good starts in the games.
Q: In 2017, South Africa had to go through the qualifying tournament to play in the World Cup. Now you are going into the World Cup 2022 as the number two side in the world. How do you see the evolution of the side?
I think that in itself shows how much we've improved as a side, not having to go to qualify as was quite big for us. Yeah, you always want to qualify directly. To be in that position is a really good show of what we can do and what we have been doing in the last couple of years. So, yeah, hopefully we can continue with that. Like I said, this tournament is kind of the part that really matters, whatever we've done in the past four years in leading up until now. So this is where it all needs to come together and we actually need to show the hard work that we've put in behind the scenes.
Q: South Africa have kept their core intact with ten members from the 2017 squad still around. So how do you see the team playing together for so long helping in New Zealand?
I definitely think this is the strongest side that we've had at a World Cup. We have a lot of very experienced players and then a good mix of youth as well, which I think is a really good combination that we have right now. A lot of our players, I think, are playing the best cricket that they have in their careers.
For example, Lizelle Lee is an absolute run machine at the moment. We have players like Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp who are bowling incredibly well at the moment. A lot of players are hitting their peaks at the right time for this tournament. So, I'm very, very excited to see what happens.
Q: So, you talked about Shabnim Ismail and Marizanne Kapp; South Africa have one of the best bowling attack in the world. How do you see that helping your side in the tournament?
I definitely think we have the best bowling side in the world; it's something that we strive towards and something that the bowling unit talks about. A lot, I guess, is to stay consistently at the top of their game. It's just about the batting unit being consistent and backing them up and giving them enough runs to defend. I think in the past we've been a bit inconsistent with the bat and it's something that we've gotten a bit better at the last couple of seasons. I think bowling is definitely our strongest point and hopefully our batting can be nice and consistent for the tournament.
Q: How will the absence of regular skipper Dané van Niekerk affect the side and how you guys are going to cope with it?
Obviously losing Dané is a massive, massive loss for the side, not just in in her captaincy and as a leader, but with the bat as well and with her leg spin. She's just overall, you know, a big loss for the team and she will sorely be missed. Yeah, she's been a very inspirational leader for us for the past four years. So to miss that side as well as well as her cricketing abilities is not great for us.
But in saying that, I think we have a good replacement in Suné Luus, who's really stepped up the last couple of series in Dané's absence and has led us to a couple of series wins as well, which has been good for the side, so we're definitely going to miss them. There's no hiding that, but we need to find a way to try and try and win without her.
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Q: How important will be the role of the leadership group in Mignon du Preez, Marizanne Kapp and others in the absence of Dané?
I think (it’s) more important than ever. Having those senior players who also played in New Zealand a couple of years ago, just sharing whatever information they have. A lot of other senior players have played against all of these teams hundreds of times. So to have that experience is going to be very important in this World Cup, especially with a tournament where you're playing in a different country against different teams every week. They will be even more important now that we don't have our usual captain.
Q: Coming to your personal form, you scored your third ODI hundred during the West Indies series. How will that help going into the World Cup?
I had the one good game in that series. I was still a bit disappointed in my in the other three games that I kind of got started, but didn't capitalise on that because I feel like I was batting well, but just went out at stupid times. But yeah, I think going into the World Cup with scoring that hundred will help a bit. But I guess you, you start from scratch either way, and it's a new tournament, a new team. So yeah, I'm trying not to to read into anything too much, whether I got 100 or got a duck in the last game. So I'm just trying to start afresh and it's a new country completely.
Q: You talked about this being the strongest South Africa side going into the World Cup. So, is this time for South Africa?
I hope it's time. That would really be nice if it was time for us. But I definitely think this is our best chance so far. We have so many good, really good players that are playing well and so experience. So, yeah, I think it is our best chance.