Oh Captain, My Captain

The South African women’s cricket team, the Momentum Proteas will be competing against the top cricketing sides in the world at the ICC Women’s World T20 Championships in 2014 after beating world champions Pakistan by 5 wickets last year to qualify for the tournament. Nobody is as excited as Proteas captain Mignon Du Preez about the progress this semi-professional side has made since she became captain in November 2011. “It’s wonderful that the team has been able to qualify for top tournaments and compete with professional sportswomen at the highest level,” said Du Preez. Corporate giants Momentum have recently come on board as the sole sponsor of the team, making it possible for further development and grooming of budding female talent in the country. Du Preez says, “There is so much potential out there and it’s incredible to finally have a sponsor to back the talent, and also make it possible for youngsters to one day play women’s cricket professionally”. Mignon is very positive about the team’s chances in the world arena saying that, “We may not win the next World Cup but the following one is a very realistic possibility, looking at where we are placed in comparison to other cricketing countries and how much South Africa is investing in the development of women’s cricket”.

Mignon du Preez discovered her talent when the rest of us were learning our ABC’s. Her father, the coach of the Under-7 Baker’s Mini Cricket boys’ team was short of a player and asked her if she could fill in.  Well, his little girl was named Best Batsman at that tournament, beating all the boys for the much coveted title. Since age 4 Mignon has gone on to accomplish many firsts for women. Her debut half-century was during an ODI against Pakistan in January 2007. Later that year she was one part of the pair that set the record for the highest fourth wicket partnership in women’s cricket; 224 against the Netherlands. On that tour, she also set her highest individual score of 83 not out. Mignon represented her country in the ICC Women’s World Cup in Australia in March 2009 and in the first ever T20 Women’s World Cup in June 2009 which was held in England. It was there that she scored her debut T20 half century against Australia. In October 2009 the West Indies toured South Africa, and during that tour Mignon twice won Play of the Match awards as South Africa won the series.

2010 marked a very special year in Mignon’s career; she was awarded Cricket South Africa (CSA) Women’s Cricketer of the Year after a few memorable performances during that year’s T20 Women’s World Cup in the West Indies as well as outstanding cricket during the African Qualifiers tournament in Kenya won by South Africa.

With so many accolades under her belt, you would think that when asked about her all-time favourite cricket match, we would hear about Australia, West Indies or New Zealand. Not for this humble national captain. Aged 13 and playing for Gauteng North against Gauteng Girls Academy she smashed the unofficial world record of 258 not out featuring sixteen 6’s and 28 fours.

At the moment CSA is looking for a new coach for the national women’s team, who have had four different coaches in the last four years. The hope is for some stability going forward.

Mignon’s big brother and father were her first cricket heroes, and then came Hansie Cronje. When she started batting more seriously in her teens, it could only be the magnificent Sachin Tendulkar whom she wished to emulate. At 1.56 metres, she is the shortest in the team and her teammates won’t let her forget it. She giggles at those who tease her lack of height, “God only let’s people grow until they are perfect. Some people just take longer to get there.”

Pink Link, Your Link To Female Sport…

Follow Ntando on Twitter @NtandoChonco