The former captain of the South African women’s team, Dane van Niekerk, has announced that she is retiring from all forms of international cricket, although she will continue to compete in T20 franchise leagues.
There had been speculation for some time that she would quit the international game after she was controversially omitted from South Africa’s squad for the T20I World Cup, but she has now decided the matter beyond doubt, after informing the country’s selectors through her agent.
It was not certain if she would have been offered a new contract in any event, not having played international cricket since September 2021.
All-rounder van Niekerk made his international debut in 2009 when still a teenager, playing in a T20I against the West Indies, and would go on to play in 86 T20Is, 107 ODIs, and one test match (there are still few tests played in women’s cricket).
She is the only South African player to have scored 1,500 runs and to have taken in excess of 50 wickets in the T20I format of the game. She was also the first South African to have claimed two five wicket hauls in ODI cricket.
In 2019 she was named South African Women’s Cricketer of the Year, and, the following year she captained the team into the T20 World Cup in Australia.
However, injuries affected the latter part of her career. A lower back injury ruled her out of action for most of 2020, and, then, whilst attempting to prepare for the 2022 T20 World Cup, she broke her ankle.
That again saw her spend more than a year on the side-lines before attempting her comeback ahead of the World Cup.
In a bid to prove their fitness ahead of the World Cup, the South African squad were required to undergo a series of tests, one of which was to complete a 2 km run within 9 minutes and 30 seconds. Van Niekerk, unfortunately, missed out on this by 18 seconds running on a treadmill, and was excluded from the squad as a result. When she was told of her omission, van Niekerk described herself as “absolutely broken” whilst her wife, and fellow South African player Marizanne Kapp withdrew from a warm-up tri-nation series (that also featured India) to be with her.
Many in South Africa thought she had been unfairly treated, and that her record deserved some accommodation from the selectors. However, Cricket South Africa insisted at the time that the criteria were non-negotiable, and that all the other players in contention had met them.
However, in her stead, Sune Luus was appointed South African captain on a permanent basis, and, despite losing their first two group games at the World Cup, the host nation still reached the final, before eventually losing to Australia. They emerged from the tournament, though, with a great deal of credit.
She was not the first South African cricketer to walk away from international cricket over fitness concerns. Lizelle Lee also decided to retire last July because she was unable to adhere to the weight requirements,
Expresses her gratitude
In announcing her retirement, van Niekerk says that it has been a great honour to have led her country, and that she looks back on her international career with a great deal of fondness. She also says that she is grateful for what the game has given her.
This is by no means the end of van Niekerk’s cricketing career, however, as she has indicated that she intends to continue playing in franchise cricket. She was bought in the auction for the inaugural Indian women’s T20 franchise league by the Royal Challengers Bangalore, but, although she trained with them, she has yet to play for them. Instead she has spent her time in India supporting Kapp, who is playing for the Delhi Capitals.
Later this year she will travel to England to feature for the Oval Invincibles in the Hundred competition, and she has also played WBL (Women’s Big Bash League) cricket in the past.
Kapp, though, will continue to play international cricket, with van Niekerk’s support, and is set to sign a new central contract shortly. That is despite some residual feelings of resentment for how her wife has been treated, arguing that she “deserves so much better.”
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