Room-mates lift South Africa with record stand
Marizanne Kapp and Dane van Niekerk have a lot in common. They both are allrounders. They made their international debut during the 2009 Women's World Cup. And they are "best friends" in the South Africa dressing room. They are also room-mates whenever the team goes on tour.
On Tuesday, the duo shared an unbroken 128-run partnership for the sixth wicket against Pakistan. Not only did the stand, South Africa's highest ever in all Women's World Cups, set up their maiden victory of their 2013 campaign, it helped the team achieve their primary objective at the start of the tournament: to progress to the Super Sixes. The duo achieved personal bests with the bat as well; while Kapp, the senior of the two, notched up her maiden century, Niekerk, all of 19 despite being on the international stage for four years, raised her first fifty.
After the game, they revelled in each other's achievements. "You don't plan for anything. It just happened. It's a first for us. Ever," Kapp told ESPNcricinfo soon after South Africa completed a 126-run rout of Pakistan, patting 'D', as Niekerk is fondly known among her team-mates, on the back.
Being great friends did help both of them during their partnership, which bailed South Africa out from a precarious 79 for 5 in the must-win Group B game, Kapp said: "That's a good thing, we understand each other so well, so when it comes to running between the wickets and all, there's no confusion. We don't even need to call. We just look at each other and take off for a single."
Niekerj interjected, explaining how she calmed her senior down when Kapp entered the 90s for the first time in international cricket. "She got all nervous in the 90s. And she started playing all the sort of shots that she doesn't play usually. So I just walked up to her and told her to do what she is used to," Niekerk said. "I know she drives really well and that's what I told her to do."
It's not just on-field expertise that the two share; both girls are flag-bearers of the South African team's fashion statement off the field. "I don't think people are here for a fashion statement, we are here to play the game. But off the field, we are what we are. I think it's got a lot to do with our roots. Mom wants us to look nice, so we look nice," Kapp said. Niekerk added: "We like being girlie. We like dressing up and all of that."
Would more cricketers like them, who are not shy to be themselves, help turn the spotlight on the women's game a little bit more? "Definitely," Kapp, who is studying sports management, said. "Advertisement and all, that's what it's all about."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo