Captain Dané van Niekerk says she was ‘caught by surprise’ after being named the big women’s winner at the Cricket South Africa awards function held in Pretoria at the weekend.
The all-rounder scooped the South African Cricketer of the Year prize and was also recognised as SA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year at the glittering ceremony at the Maslow Times Square Hotel.
Van Niekerk’s surprise reaction stemmed from the fact that she has been out for nearly six months due to a stress fracture of the right femur.
‘It’s obviously a bit of an emotional ride for me right now. It was a pretty rough six months for me,’ she said.
‘You know I love the game, so being away from my teammates first of all, and being away from the game, was really tough. But that happens in any career and I’m just stoked.’
Since the start of June last year, Van Niekerk has been in phenomenal form whenever she pulled on the green and gold.
The 26-year-old scored a century and seven half-centuries in 19 One-Day and Twenty20 Internationals. At the same time, she also claimed 12 wickets, leaving her as the standout performer in the Proteas women’s set-up.
‘First of all, the recognition from my teammates, that means the most because it shows they appreciated the efforts that I put in before I got injured and then obviously getting Player of the Year, I didn’t expect it,’ she added.
‘There were a lot of players, who after my injury put up their hand by playing really well. I really feel honoured.’
The other main female award winners were Marizanne Kapp, who was named ODI Player of the Year and Shabnim Ismail, who claimed the T20 International Player of the Year award.
The two are experienced campaigners and have together formed one of the best opening-bowling combinations in the women’s game.
One other new name appeared among the stars, Tumi Sekhukhune, after she won International Women’s Newcomer of the Year.
The 20-year-old claimed 10 wickets in eight ODI matches with her canny medium-fast style and also managed 11 wickets in her 14 T20s for the national side.
‘I was really overwhelmed after winning the award,’ she reflected.
‘I think the only thing that got me here was hard work and dedication to my job over the past year and I feel really privileged to be given this award.
‘I’ve been getting more exposure and experience by being in the Proteas set-up, especially at a very young age. With more experience my performances can get even better. It’s great to be able to play for my country and represent this proud Proteas badge.’
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