Dane van Niekerk is a true inspiration when it comes to cricket. Her dedication to the sport is evident in her rigorous training and unbeatable record at the international level. However, her recent scathing comments towards Cricket South Africa (CSA) reveal the harsh reality of the sport’s administration. Van Niekerk’s exclusion from the T20 World Cup earlier this year due to missing a cut-off time for the 2km time trial by only 18 seconds led to her retirement from cricket. And even more shockingly, she admitted to starving herself for six weeks in order to captain her country in the home World Cup. These events are a stark reminder of the pressure top-level athletes face and the risks they take to achieve their goals.
After leading her country in 194 matches and captaining the team since 2016, the news hit hard for the hard-hitting batter and leg-spinner. Being told she was not fit enough was a crushing blow for her, and she was left devastated after her World Cup dream was taken away from her. The cricket world was shocked and appalled at the decision made by CSA, which seemed personal to van Niekerk. Despite trying her best to meet their expectations and even going to the extent of not eating and killing herself, as she stated in a podcast, she received no faith from CSA. As the leader and heartbeat of the side, van Niekerk had won many games for the country off her own back, and she deserved a chance to realize her World Cup dream.
Van Niekerk’s impressive performance in every medical and fitness benchmark left everyone shocked when she missed the 2km time trial benchmark by just 18 seconds. Despite dropping three minutes off it in just two months, it was the running that was the prerequisite. Van Niekerk’s dedication and hard work is apparent when you look at the other benchmarks she achieved, like losing more than 10kg, having the highest fitness percentage in five years, and playing a World Cup. However, as much as she wanted to participate in the tournament, she had to commentate from the sidelines. The news has appalled fans, pundits and ex-legends for a variety of reasons. Van Niekerk’s story is a reminder that sometimes no matter how hard we work, there are still things that we cannot control, and it is essential to keep pushing forward regardless of the outcomes.
Throughout her illustrious career, this cricket player has proven herself worthy of respect and admiration. With an impressive batting average of 36 and 19 with the ball across 107 ODIs, and an equally commendable performance over 86 T20Is, there is no doubt that she has put in years of hard work and dedication to the sport. What’s even more inspiring is that cricket is not a game where body size or shape predicates their success. Shane Warne, a legendary leg-spinner, proved this point by achieving a memorable career despite being considered overweight at times. This athlete is a true testament to the fact that when someone has the skill and commitment, they can excel in their chosen sport, no matter their body type.
It’s always bittersweet to see a legendary career come to an end, especially when it’s due to a seemingly innocuous incident. But even though we won’t be able to watch this South African athlete dominate on the local stage anymore, we can still look forward to seeing her power game on display in the T20 global circuit. And let’s be honest, the rest of the world could use a little more talent like hers. So while it’s a shame to say goodbye, it’s also exciting to think about where she’ll go from here and how she’ll continue to leave her mark on the game.