This felt personal - Dane van Niekerk opens up about T20 World Cup exclusion

Dane van Niekerk’s omission from the Proteas’ T20 World Cup squad earlier this year still hurts immensely and she believes it had to be ‘personal’. Picture: Muzi Ntombela BackpagePix

Dane van Niekerk’s omission from the Proteas’ T20 World Cup squad earlier this year still hurts immensely and she believes it had to be ‘personal’. Picture: Muzi Ntombela BackpagePix

Published Apr 12, 2023


Johannesburg - Dane van Niekerk’s omission from the Proteas women’s T20 World Cup earlier this year still hurts immensely and she believes it had to be “personal”.

The 29-year-old, who captained the Proteas 80 times over the span of a 14-year career, retired from international cricket last month.

It was a decision she explained by saying "I just couldn't do it any more for a company that doesn't value me” and has instead opted to pursue a career playing franchise cricket.

She is currently in Hong Kong playing in the Fairbreak Invitational, while she was also part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad for the inaugural Women’s Premier League in India last month.

From Hong Kong, she will head to England where the all-rounder will take up a two-and-a-half-month contract with the Sunrisers to play regional cricket ahead of rejoining Oval Invincibles for The Hundred competition.

Despite having all these fresh and new opportunities, Van Niekerk remains “hurt” that she was relieved of her national team captaincy duties ahead of the T20 World Cup.

All-rounder Sune Luus, who had led the Proteas in Van Niekerk’s injury-enforced absence for the past two years, was installed as the new official captain and guided the team to a first-ever T20 World Cup final.

Although the Proteas eventually lost to Australia in the final, it was the first time a senior South African team - male or female - reached a World Cup final in any format.

"It was a weird thing," Van Niekerk told the BBC's No Balls podcast in a wide-ranging interview. "I wanted South Africa to win, but I'm not going to say I wasn't conflicted. The women in that team are my mates. I love them; I want good things for them. I wanted to sing that national anthem with my team at Port Elizabeth, my home town.

"I was happy to see my friends experience that, but I was also bitter. The country needed that final, but I did not work for 14 years for my country to miss out on that.

"I knew that if something good came from that World Cup - which again, I wanted - everything that transpired with me would get pushed under the rug and there would be no questions asked.

"I have never said that you shouldn't be fit if you're playing for your country, but I didn't come into that fitness test less fit. I wasn't overweight. In fact, everything was better than it had been.

“I was being picked previously because I was good at cricket and I don't know how that went out of the window. I believed in myself as a cricketer, as a tactician and as a captain and I thought that should carry some weight.”

Van Niekerk claimed she never expected a "free pass" and appreciated initial support from Cricket SA in helping her regain her fitness. However, in the build-up to the T20 World Cup squad announcement she could sense things were changing.

"They did give me the opportunity (to make the 2km time) and I'll never take that away from them, but it was everything leading into that cut-off day," she said.

"But you don't kick somebody when they're down. I didn't expect a free pass - that's not who I am.

"My captaincy was stripped from me because they said they realised there was a chance I might not make the World Cup team. I never expected them to kiss my feet. But surely what I have given and what I have put my body through for 14 years, does that not count for something?

“That hurt, because I was training alone, running, doing everything I can and then they say that. Where's the faith?”

Van Niekerk still believes that there is more to her exclusion than simply missing the required time for a 2km run.

"I was vocal as a captain. I held players and management accountable and that included myself. I always had the best intentions for the team," Van Niekerk said.

"A comment was made to me about me losing the respect of the group, but how can that happen when I'm not there?

"It had to be an internal thing - it's personal."


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