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'Leadership came natural to me and it's a role I would like to grow into' - Sune Luus

She describes captaining South Africa in a home World Cup as a "massive, massive honour"

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
09-Feb-2023
Sune Luus will be leading South Africa in a T20 World Cup for the first time, Women's T20 World Cup, Cape Town, February 4, 2023

Sune Luus: "I would like to think I'm very calm and collected on the field"  •  ICC/Getty Images

Sune Luus doesn't mind admitting that captaincy is a role she has grown, and continues to grow, into.
On the eve of the Women's T20 World Cup, where she will lead hosts South Africa in the opening game against Sri Lanka at Newlands, Luus felt firmly ensconced in a job she has held on and off since 2017 and ready to take on the world.
"It's always difficult being a stand-in captain, you're always one foot in and one foot out," Luus said. "But as I grew up I was always a leader at some stage in whatever team I played, so those leadership qualities came natural to me and it's a role I would really like to grow into.
"Every game you play, you get more accustomed to your team-mates next to you and what they want and what they need. Every game you play you grow into that role."
Luus cut a different figure on Thursday to the one standing in when Dane van Niekerk missed South Africa's tour of England last year with a broken ankle. During that time, her team was facing the controversial retirement of Lizelle Lee, lost star player Marizanne Kapp for a portion of the trip and won just one match in the multi-format series after drawing the Test.
Now, with a global event on her doorstep, Luus seemed understandably more upbeat and was positively inspiring, despite her side again being without van Niekerk, who failed the 2km run segment of her fitness test to qualify for selection. But Luus was willing to embrace the noise around her team leading up to this tournament as part of the job.
"It's just a reality, but at the moment I'm an official captain so it makes my job easier to take control and kind of stamp my authority on things and how I would like to go about things," Luus said. "It comes with a new dimension. It brings new challenges and difficulties but it's a challenge I'm willing to take on and accept and grow in that role. The focus is on cricket and that's where we'd like it to be."
Luus has captained South Africa in 28 T20Is, winning half of them, while van Niekerk has a similar record with 15 wins from 30 matches as captain. South Africa have also won 19 of Luus' 34 ODIs as captain, compared to 29 of 50 under van Niekerk.
In a sign of the calmness she prides herself on as a captain, Luus was able to laugh off a minor hiccup to her latest preparations for leading her country after her proud parents' arrival from Johannesburg to watch her was delayed.
"My parents just missed their flight," Luus said. "Hopefully they make it for the first game to be here and supporting me. The moment I phoned my dad and I told him this is how it's going to be, he started crying and he was just so proud. It's a massive, massive honour to lead a country, not just in any series but at a home World Cup, I think that makes it even more special.
"I would like to think I'm very calm and collected on the field. Some people might say I'm too calm and too chilled but in difficult times that's what a team needs, you don't want someone that's also going a bit frantic."
South Africa split their official warm-up matches with a win and a loss. They comfortably defeated Pakistan by six wickets, a win built largely on a century opening stand between Laura Wolvaardt and Tazmin Brits, and posted 229 chasing 247 against England when middle-order batters Chloe Tryon and Nadine de Klerk both scored fifties.
Prior to that, they had defeated India in the final of their tri-series, also involving West Indies, with an unbeaten half-century from Tryon and some solid bowling by left-arm spinner Nonkululeko Mlaba, who has surged ahead of Deepti Sharma to sit second on the ICC's T20 bowlers' rankings behind Sophie Ecclestone. With slow wickets expected at this tournament, it could play into Mlaba's hands.
"She's been fantastic in our team," Luus said. "She started at a very young age and she's grown in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years in terms of her bowling and every game she's playing she's just getting more confidence. She's going to be vital for us being our main spinner and controlling the game."
First game aside, Luus also has her eyes on the big picture in terms of what the tournament could mean for women's cricket in South Africa as a whole.
"It's quite massive," Luus said. "I don't think we quite realise what we've really achieved without playing a game. It's going to be awesome tomorrow seeing everyone coming out and apart from the cricketing things and apart from being successful and winning games, it's the responsibility of inspiring a nation as well and inspiring young girls to get out of their comfort zones and to imagine a career that they can do anything in.
"That's one of our biggest roles as a team that we would like to play, not just winning games but also inspiring a nation to give them that opportunity to know that they can be anything they want.
"There's always going to be pressure and you're always going to feel it whether you play at home or not but we've spoken a lot about it and how we want to go about this World Cup. We just need to embrace the moment and embrace the pressure and take it on and run with it."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo