Kim Price and the return of South Africa
It has been a long time since we have seen South Africa in the international Women's cricket arena. In 1985, the Women's competition was dissolved, and for 10 long years there was no women's teams whatsoever. However in December 1995, with view to the 1997 World Cup, Women's cricket in South Africa was reformed. Active recruiting from the Indoor Cricket competition, and typical South African determination, has made them now ranked as fifth in the world, and a strong possibility to take the crown. Recently I was lucky enough to talk to captain Kim Price, who helped me understand the rise of the South African team, and their hopes for the future, after 25 years of being outside the International arena.
In August this year, they had their first international tour, against Ireland and England. They went with a totally untested side, determined to learn from every match, and to determine their place in the world scene. For a first tour, they were unbelievably successful, thrashing the Irish side 3-0, and surprising world champs England by winning the game at Lords (England won the series 2-1, with two games washed out). Sharing a bus between games gave them ample chances to study the opposition, while England's ability to change attacks according to circumstances on field gave them something to aim for. They returned to SA confident and determined to do well in the World Cup.
The World Cup squad was announced a week after I talked to Kim, with members from all over South Africa, and with an age range from 19 to 34. As with most Women's teams, this means that each member is responsible for their own training, with them getting together to practice as a team only four days before leaving for India. They arrived on the 2nd of December, leaving a week to acclimatise and prepare for the contest.
Financially, doing well in the World Cup is extremely important to the Women's team. When the Women's comp was revitalised, they had sponsorship up until December 1997. After that, there is no known sponsorship, although the cricketing authority just received a sponsorship deal worth 50 million rand. Understandably, Kim thought it a little unfair that none of this was available to be directed towards Women's cricket, although she was very appreciative of the financial support they had received thus far, and didn't want to be seen as greedy. Personally, I thought hoping for a hundredth of that was eminently reasonable, if not a overly so. Kim said they would even appreciate new training kits.
Asked about the future of Women's cricket in South Africa, Kim was extremely positive. They have developed a strong national competition, with 52 women's clubs in the 9 provinces. The main problem was developing people to the games, with a number of cricket fans not even aware that they have a women's team. As a solution, she was hoping that they may be able to be introduced during the breaks at the men's games, though the Cricket Board have so far not been very keen on this idea. However, they are beginning to forge links with the men's side, through such actions as using the men's coaches and training facilities at times, so she was hoping this may change.
The more distant future also looks positive, with a High School competition organised for the first time this year. As yet, there is no structured Primary School competition in place, with most young girls asking to play with the boys. Province to province, the level of organisation varies greatly, with the strongest side, Natal, working hard to ensure they will remain that way.
Not bad for two years work. A strong national competition, structured future, a national side of strong all round players (Kim usually has at least 8 bowlers she can call on in any match) that South Africa can be proud of. Now all they have to do is learn to overcome their homesickness, and they will be unstoppable.