Star South African allrounder Dane van Niekerk believes now is the best time ever to be a female cricketer.
You played for Loughborough Lightning in the inaugural Kia Super League in England last year. What was it like?
It was amazing. I think the cricket on display just showed what a high quality competition it is and it was very enjoyable. I had a lot of fun and we played some serious cricket. As well as that we learned a lot. That’s one thing our coach always emphasised, whatever you learn you can then bounce off with each other. It’s especially useful to have played in the UK, given we’ll have similar conditions with for the World Cup.
One of the functions of these new tournaments is to inspire a new generation of fans. Do you think of yourself as a role model?
Yeah, I don’t always think of that, but if you hear it it’s always nice. It’s pretty overwhelming to be honest because you don’t always know what you have to do.
But it’s exciting: it’s nice to be part of this era of women’s cricket and hopefully the people to come will be bigger and better role models.
How do you assess the position of women’s cricket right now?
It’s really growing, with Australian and English players becoming professional, with the WBBL and KSL, New Zealand announcing they are going to pay their players some more money… It feels like we’re in the middle of an exciting explosion of women’s cricket, and the World Cup in England could be a real demonstration of that.
It’s just amazing to be part of it. It’s bittersweet because there are so many pioneers who won’t be able to reap the rewards – we are reaping their rewards and I’m thankful for them.
What would it mean for South African women’s cricket to have success on a global stage?
It’ll mean the world to us to win a World Cup. It’s anybody’s dream, our girls put in a lot of hard work, I’m not saying other countries don’t but I can say what I see from my team. The commitment they show and the real passion… they want to win a World Cup, and it’ll be a testament to all the hard work they’ve put in, our sponsors and Cricket South Africa, it’ll be a good ‘thank you’. But it’s a tough competition, amazing cricketers and teams, awesome grounds… it’s daunting.
We’ve seen the WBBL and KSL that there is a real appetite for domestic women’s cricket. Do you think there’s a similar appetite in South Africa?
That’s the big goal, I guess. Cricket South Africa is really working hard to push the young girls to watch and try cricket. I don’t think it’s as big as it is in England or Australia but they are working really hard and are trying to develop the game. As everybody knows it takes time, so hopefully in the future there will be.