We caught up with the coach who discovered Tumi Sekhukhune, the Proteas Women’s new rising star.
After chatting to the 19-year-old medium pacer – who humbly revealed her surprise over her national call-up – SACricketmag.com got in touch with Gift Xaka, to ask him about how he discovered the young women’s player.
What was it about Tumi that stood out to you?
Tumi is an athlete and when I first saw her I said to myself ‘we have an athlete here’ and let us combine that with cricket and see what can be the results. She is one player that never relied on her talent; hard work and talent combined did the wonders for her progress. She is one player that likes to be challenged and she is not afraid of being out of her comfort zone.
Were you surprised when she received her national call-up?
I was not surprised – I knew it was coming because she has been working hard and wanted to represent her country. When she was in the SA U19 girls side and immediately went to the National Academy, I knew then that the coaches at that level were preparing her for greater things. She was destined for it. I could see the hunger in her eyes the day I first saw her – she will wear that jersey with pride. I think I was more excited than her.
‘I was told not to field her as she was still very young and should I do that there would be serious consequences. I took a risk and told her that I believe in her and she must go and do what she does best.’ – Gift Xaka
Working with her at Easterns, what attributes stand out for you about her character?
She does not want to associate herself with failure. She reacts positively to pressure and that turns out to give her positive results every time pressure has been created. She likes it when the coaches challenge her and she is one player that will always challenge you as a coach so that she can improve. She has a champion mentality and her never-say-die attitude is always visible on and off the field of cricket.
What differentiates her from any other player you have worked with or seen play?
When she made her debut for Easterns, she was only 14 years old and, prior to her making her debut, I was told not to field her as she was still very young and should I do that there would be serious consequences. I took a risk and told her that I believe in her and she must go and do what she does best. Young Tumi in her baggy white clothes and All-Stars was ready to bowl her first over at provincial level. We played Gauteng at the main oval (Willowmore Park Stadium) that day, and her first provincial wicket was Crizelda Brits (the former national captain) caught at long-off. Seeing her jumping and celebrating the way she did, I knew that the risk I took by fielding her that day was worth it – and the star was born.
Could you shed some light on her upbringing?
Tumi played for a township called Daveyton with the boy’s age-group sides (U10, U12 and U14). She was the only girl among boys and that did not affect her at all. She was always in the company of her brothers when coming to cricket practices, which took place on a tennis court. She is from a family of cricketers (Kabelo Sekhukhune, SA U19, and Neo Sekhukhune, Easterns U17) and that played a huge role in her pursuing her cricket dream. I first met her when she was 13, turning 14, and at the time Daveyton Cricket did not know what to do with her because the boys were starting to be boys and for her to be in the company of the boys in the change room was not a comfortable situation at all. I took her under my wing and we had a very strong coach and player, father and daughter, trust and respect relationship. I ended up being her mentor and she knew that she can count on me outside cricket because I understand and can relate to her upbringing.
Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images