South Africa have named their squad for the first ever standalone ICC Women's World T20 taking place in the West Indies in November. There is a familiar feel to the group and the selectors have kept the bulk of the squad that recently completed a limited-overs tour of the West Indies, including the rookie trio of Tumi Sekhukhune, Robyn Searle and Saarah Smith who will make their World Cup debuts.
Fast bowler Shabnim Ismail and wicketkeeper Trisha Chetty will also return to action for the tournament. Neither had been part of the recent West Indies tour, with Chetty ruled out with a back injury while Ismail, who is South Africa's leading wicket-taker in T20Is with 72 dismissals in 69 matches, stayed at home to be with her ailing father.
While South Africa have been boosted by the pair's return, they will be without fast bowler Ayabonga Khaka who has not sufficiently recovered from her shoulder surgery and was not considered for selection. The South Africans were also struck a further blow when offspinner Raisibe Ntozakhe, originally named in the squad of 15, was suspended from bowling in international cricket due to an illegal bowling action.
As expected, Dané van Niekerk will captain the squad as well as performing pivotal roles with bat and ball. Van Niekerk is South Africa's leading T20I runscorer with 1,505 runs. Just behind her is Mignon du Preez with 1,400, while both Lizelle Lee and Trisha Chetty have over 1,000 runs in the format.
While her top-order runs are undoubtedly handy, it is van Niekerk's legspin that could make a real splash at a tournament in spin-friendly conditions. She has 49 wickets in the format for South Africa and also flourished at last season's WBBL. She led the wickets tally for most of the season before leaving for national duty, picking up 20 dismissals with a strike rate of a wicket every 13 balls and an economy rate of just 5.57.
Van Niekerk was part of the squad that reached the semi final of the 2014 World T20 in Bangladesh, and captained them to the semi final of the 2017 fifty over World Cup. During that time, she has been part of a squad that has stayed remarkably settled in selection, as well as playing more limited overs cricket than anyone else. Since the last Women's World T20 in 2016, when they crashed out in the first round, South Africa have played 18 T20Is, winning eight.
In the same time, they've also played 53 ODIs. With largely the same squad in both formats, South Africa have gained white-ball experience rapidly and earlier this month they held reigning champions West Indies to a 2-2 series draw in the Caribbean.
"Good luck to our Proteas Ladies as they head for the West Indies with high expectations for the ICC Women's World T20," said Cricket South Africa Chief Executive Thabang Moroe. "They reached the semi-final of this tournament in Bangladesh in 2014 and came agonisingly close to a first appearance in a Final in last year's ICC Women's World Cup in England.
"The time has now arrived for them to take that next step forward and get into the championship match.They can take a lot of justifiable confidence out of their recently completed tour of the West Indies where they drew both the ODI and T20 Series against their hosts who are the defending champions for the ICC World T20. They also had to make do without a number of key players."
"From CSA's perspective we have left no stone unturned in our support for Dané and her team to put them on the same level of preparation as our Proteas' men's team," concluded Moroe.
South Africa were automatic qualifiers for the sixth edition of the Women's World T20, and the second to be held in the West Indies, who also hosted in 2010. South Africa will play in Group A in St Lucia against defending champions West Indies, England, Sri Lanka and World Cup Qualifier winners Bangladesh. Group B comprises Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and Ireland.