Proteas Women bowler Marcia Letsoalo wants to take her game to a new level as a busy season approaches for the national side.
Women’s cricket has entered an exciting era. It’s an era which is starting to catch up to the men’s game, where the world’s top players are able to showcase their talents in lucrative T20 leagues across the world. The Women’s Big Bash League and the Kia Super League in England have opened new possibilities for the cricketers, and a handful of South Africans are filling up their schedules with exciting opportunities.
Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Dane van Niekerk and Lizelle Lee have been chosen to play in the Super League in August. It’s posed a bit of a problem as it conflicts with South Africa’s tour of Ireland. It symbolises how much cricket is now available to these players, and now the tour of Ireland is a chance for some of the fringe players to step up and raise their hands for a place in next year’s ICC World Cup.
For some of the more experienced players in the team, it’s a tad disappointing that they themselves weren’t snapped up by franchises. One of them is bowler Marcia Letsoalo, but it’s certainly extra incentive to impress and stake her claim for more opportunities.
‘Personally I could have done more last season, I didn’t give my 100%,’ Letsoalo tells SACricketmag.com. ‘Everyone wants to play in these leagues, so it boils down to your preparation, fitness and training. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to perform, and the only way you’re going to be recognised is to perform.’
The side were televised for the first time when they played T20s against England and West Indies earlier in the year. They also got the opportunity to play at larger stadiums such as Newlands and the Wanderers, which was testimony to how the women’s game is growing in this country. Letsoalo believes this has motivated the side to raise their game.
‘One thing I always used to say was that I wish we could be televised so that the kids could look up to the women’s side as well as the men’s side. Most people didn’t even know there was a women’s side. Now they’re aware, and the supporter base has grown.
‘Now everyone is watching these tournaments, and we’re fitter than we’ve ever been before. Everyone is working harder because the incentive is there to do that. Televising the games means people are performing, and that has led to the players getting sponsors. Shabnim and Kappy have been performing well and they’ve earned their call-ups.’
Letsoalo is 32 now, but she’s hoping to use that to her advantage as one of the more senior players in the side. Don’t be fooled by her modest returns. With over 100 international caps she has a wealth of experience at the highest level. In 56 ODIs she has 34 wickets at 35.41 and in 46 T20Is at 36.71. It’s her economy rate that catches the eye, however.
Operated mainly as a second- or third-change bowler, she makes the most of her medium pace with probing line and lengths, getting her deliveries to dip in and cut away, making her very difficult to put away. Her Test economy rate is a miserly 1.57, and her ODI and T20 rates are 3.50 and 6.38 respectively. The wickets column is something she can improve on, but the tools are there to achieve just that.
‘It’s always a privilege for me to represent my country. It’s been a dream come true. Now I want to be one of the best bowlers in the world, and I want people to look up to me as an inspiration. I want the Proteas to be the best in the world so people can start taking us seriously.’
The side didn’t perform as well as they would have wanted to in the World T20 as they were knocked out at the group stages, but there’s a lot of cricket coming up for the side with the Ireland tour and home tours against Bangladesh and New Zealand approaching, too. There are as many as 21 international matches for the side between now and the end of October. Letsoalo believes they are better prepared than they have ever been.
‘I think I can improve my game a lot. I’ve reflected on the past season and I’ve worked hard to prepare for next season. The Powerade Academy has given the women the chance to bat long hours and improve their game. We know we can improve as a side and we know what we’re capable of. We’ve learnt from our mistakes.’
Picture: Lee Warren/Gallo Images