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A tribute to Dane Van Niekerk- the pride of South Africa’s bowling

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It’s the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup. The date is July 18. England is the pantheon of cricket’s greatest and grandest carnival and on the watch of nearly every cricketing enthusiast around the world.

All roads lead to Bristol where South Africa are playing England

To put it succinctly, Mignon Du Preez and Laura Woolvardt are competing against Sarah Taylor. The runs, wherever they’ve been coming from are hard and dry.
The pitch is turning like a greedy friend who can the turn the back on you for cheap money. We are in the final two overs of the proceedings. England require merely 6 off 2 overs.
But can you ever expect South Africa to ever make it that easy for them?
From the final over, England still need three.

The good news for South Africa? They’ve clinched wicket number 7 prior to the start of final 6 balls

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Then, Shabnam Ismail, the lotus glittering amidst the seemingly impending gloom, completely outfoxes Laura Marsh.
Wicket number 8 has gone down. England are on the tenterhooks and South Africa believe.
Next up, on the fourth ball of the chase, seeing width outside off, Shrubsole- who you’d want to hold the ball and not the bat on any given day- latches on and collects the winning runs.

The camera, in these dying moments, centres on Dane Van Niekerk

South Africa’s lioness is on her knees. At this brief moment where tears, emotions, angst are tantamount to demise, one of women’s cricket’s true superstar is inconsolable.
Her tears are tiny pearls; silvery, dainty, too small to be captured by the inflated lens of the camera occupied in capturing the fanfare at the backdrop.
As the Protean flag continues to flutter, this being the Nelson Mandela day, a thought goes out to Dane Van Niekerk’s girls.

Why South Africa? Why?

Did it have to come down to that? To the fan who’s so accustomed of expecting a multitude of emotions from the Rainbow Republic, Niekerk’s disposition to silence reminds one of AB De Villiers walking out of Auckland, having lost to New Zealand.
The words “gutted… absolutely gutted”, De Villiers in tears run parallelly to the sight of Niekerk bent on her knees.
On both occasions, South Africa went on to lose big-stage semi-finals. On both occasions, they failed to defend.

But you realise, Dane Van Niekerk doesn’t actually have to contend with tears and tears alone

A fortnight ago, on July 2, 2017, the charismatic leg-spinner achieved a feat that hasn’t been matched in the annals of world cricket.
Forget women’s cricket. Forget men’s cricket. Leave aside all existing formats.
Then, at Leicester against the West Indies, Dane Van Niekerk took on the Caribbean girls. It seemed, for the sheer immensity and singularity of the Prertorean’s feat that it wasn’t South Africa versus the West Indies; it was Dane Van Niekerk vs West Indies.
In claiming 4-0, you read that right, 4 wickets for no runs conceded, the right arm spinner concocted a web that sucked the life out of Stafanie Taylor’s girls.
Even today, nearly a year later, when you consider the sheer magnanimity of South African captain’s feat, you hold your breath

Was that even possible?

To have not conceded a single run and to have dismissed a unit like the big-hitting West Indies for merely 48, what was Niekerk on?
It was the kind of feat that kids who’re pro at online cricket games fail to achieve.
But that is exactly who Dane Van Niekerk is. You could sense in the distraughtness against England in the soul-crushing loss and in the elation against the West Indies- true passion.
It’s the mark of greats. It’s beyond the capacity of mortals to revel in the success of one’s team and to take heart from rancidness of defeats; events that state significant downfall.
But true to Niekerk’s soul-lifting leg spinners, you took pride in her feats instead of just growing in pain following South Africa’s world cup loss
For someone who could have easily basked in the glory of her incredible achievement- 15 wickets in World Cup 2017- Niekerk cut a lonely and reclusive figure in the aftermath of Proteas’ campaign.

But what made you smile was the captain’s earnestness on social media

Arguably the best Protean performer in a tournament where heavyweight names such as Laura Wolvaardt, Mignon Du Preez, Shabnam Ismail and, Tryon were in pink form, you were moved by Dane Van Niekerk’s simplicity when she shared, “winning the world cup was our only aim and personal achievements do little to move me.”
These weren’t merely words.
They weren’t a slice of prose from a revolutionary poet either.
These are emphatic signs of simplicity for a consummate cricketer that puts the team first and the self later. It’s never South Africa’s Dane Van Niekerk. It’s Dane Van Niekerk’s South Africa.
Never one without the team. Never alone or ahead of the unit. Always together, through tears and glory, retribution and redemption.
For someone who’s only just turned 25, you’d regard that Niekerk still has many many summers ahead of her in which to chase her greatest South African dream.

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