South Africa will seek to take advantage of home conditions in the Women’s T20 World Cup which starts on Friday despite a troubled build-up.
The Proteas play Sri Lanka in the opening match at Newlands in Cape Town.
The hosts will hope to improve on the performances of their country’s men’s team who failed to reach the knockout stages in the only two global men’s cricket events held in South Africa, the 2003 World Cup and 2006 Champions Trophy.
South Africa were also underperforming hosts of the 2005 Women’s World Cup, when they finished seventh out of eight teams taking part.
Crowds were sparse and media exposure was minimal at a time when interest in women’s cricket was almost non-existent.
The 2023 event will, however, have a higher profile, with significant pre-publicity and live TV coverage.
Controversy over the omission of former captain Dané van Niekerk on fitness grounds has been the biggest news event of the build-up.
All-rounder Suné Luus will continue to lead the side, a role she has fulfilled in a caretaker capacity since 2019 when Van Niekerk suffered the first of a string of injuries.
“We are used to the conditions, we know what to expect from every ground we’re going to be playing on. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage,” said Luus.
Luus made a point of mentioning Marizanne Kapp as one of the team’s “standout” players and whose form will be crucial to South Africa’s hopes.
Kapp was one of South Africa’s stars when they reached the semi-finals of the 50-overs World Cup in Australia last year, taking 12 wickets and scoring 203 runs at a strike rate of 92.
Kapp is married to Van Niekerk and was given compassionate leave from a triangular tournament final against India last week in order to support her wife following the World Cup squad announcement.
Despite Kapp’s absence, South Africa won a low-scoring match but Kapp remains committed to the World Cup campaign.
She has, though, been outspoken in support of Van Niekerk.
“It is a massive setback for me, Dané and the team that she is not in the World Cup squad,” Kapp told the Rapport newspaper at the weekend, adding that Van Niekerk’s experience as a player and “magnificent leader” would be sorely missed.
South Africa’s strength is in fast bowling in which Kapp, Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka form a formidable trio.
Nonkululeko Mlaba is an improving left-arm spin bowler and Luus has resumed her slow leg-spinners after recovering from a finger injury that limited her bowling last year.
Laura Wolvaardt, Luus, Kapp and the big-hitting Chloe Tryon are the leading batters in a department hit by the absence of Van Niekerk and the retirements of Lizelle Lee, also because of fitness issues, and Mignon du Preez.
READ: Proteas Women fall short in warm-up
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