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Ayabonga Khaka Living Her Cricket Dream

by | Jun 4, 2020

Momentum Proteas and senior Central Gauteng Lions Women’s cricketer, Ayabonga Khaka, is reaping the rewards of her hard work that has seen her rise from playing cricket in the streets to representing South Africa.

Khaka was recently recognised with a Presidential Award by Central Gauteng Lions  for her outstanding contributions, both provincially and nationally, during the 2019/20 season.

In the same week, she received two nominations for the upcoming Cricket South Africa Awards ceremony for her four wickets at the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, including 3/25 in the team’s first win over England in T20 World Cups. She also dismissed Alyssa Healy in the semi-final, which South Africa narrowly lost to eventual champions, Australia.

Khaka was ecstatic to be part of the team after having previously suffered a shoulder injury that left her out of action for a year, which only saw her return to the field late in 2019.

It has been an incredible journey for Khaka, who started out in mini cricket and then played for five years in a boys’ team.

In 2006, she joined Middledrift Women’s Club, where she was selected to play for the Border Under 19 girls’ team, and also featured in the senior provincial team.

The turning point in her career came when she was selected to play for the SAS Under 19 team in 2009, which opened doors for her to eventually play for the Proteas Women side in 2012.

Khaka reveals legendary South African cricketer, Makhaya Ntini, as her local hero. She aims to emulate his commitment to the game and the way that he was able to put rural cricket on the international map.

Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Khaka chats about how being a nationally contracted player changed her life and her ambition to win a World Cup trophy.

Ayabonga, welcome back to gsport! Let’s get right into it, where does your love for cricket come from?

It is one of the sports that we used to play when I was young with friends in my village and I started to grow the love for the game.

Briefly take us through when you started playing and how you have progressed since then.

After playing street cricket, I then joined mini cricket at primary school level. I was the only girl amongst the boys. Without a break, I played the whole five years with the boys’ team.

In 2006, I proceeded to High School. Unfortunately, there was not much of cricket played at my High School. So, the next year, I decided to join the Middledrift Women’s Club.

“Along the way, I learnt that there was something called Border Cricket. I researched about it and found out that it was a provincial level of cricket. It was in the same year that I was selected to play for the Border Under 19 girls’ team.” – Momentum Proteas cricketer, Ayabonga Khaka

We attended a six-a-side cricket tournament, and this is where I then started playing in an all girls’ team. Along the way, I learnt that there was something called Border Cricket. I researched about it and found out that it was a provincial level of cricket. It was in the same year that I was selected to play for the Border Under 19 girls’ team.

Simultaneously, I joined their Border Senior Provincial Team. I gained more information about our national cricket team and my enthusiasm grew further. Through my hard work, I was selected to play for the National Under 19 girls, in 2009 and 2010.

In 2012, I was invited to join the South African Team camp for training. It was after that camp that I made my debut to play for the Proteas Women.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Momentum Proteas?

I feel honoured and privileged as I think that it is every player’s dream to play for her country.

You are one of a few South African female cricketers to be nationally contracted. How does it feel to be to have this backing from Cricket South Africa?

Being contracted to the national team poses many challenges and opportunities as well. To me, this call is a very important role as one is a national flag carrier, dedication and hard work becomes order of the day. No one’s position is guaranteed; you have to work harder to maintain your performance.

How has being a contracted player changed your cricket life?

Being a contracted player doesn’t mean that one has reached her goals. It is just a beginning of another journey at a higher level. Teamwork is very crucial as one needs the support of other players and the supporting staff.

At which stage in your career did you realise that cricket was what you wanted to do long term?

“As I was growing up, my cricket skills also grew with time. I also ventured in playing soccer where my soccer skills started competing with my cricket. But I simply loved the cricket game.” – Khaka speaks on pursing her cricket career.

I grew up in a community where cricket was a major sport played by the youth. I was part of that youth, mainly boys. As I was growing up, my cricket skills also grew with time. I also ventured in playing soccer where my soccer skills started competing with my cricket. But I simply loved the cricket game.

At the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup in Australia, you managed to take some crucial wickets in the game against England and Australia. How much did it mean to you to have been part of the tournament and represent your country on the world stage?

It always feels great to be part of such a tournament and also represent your country on that big stage. It is one of the tournaments, that tests your skills against the best cricketers in the world.

How do you feel about the state of women’s cricket in South Africa and what can be done to make women’s cricket bigger?

I do believe that a lot still needs to be done with women’s cricket. More development, especially at the grassroots level, needs to be accelerated. More cash injection through sponsors can play a great deal. Currently, girls’ cricket is on the right path. The direction that it has taken is yielding good results. It takes a steady and sustained growth to be sure of good results, not an overnight event.

Cricket South Africa and Momentum have invested in women’s cricket, what is your message to them about the support they are providing you?

I am very grateful of their support. It is through their support that enabled us to reach heights that we have been able to and compete with the best in the world. We are now also rated amongst the best teams because of their generous support.

What are your hopes for your international cricket career going forward?

I am honoured and privileged to play for the Momentum Proteas. It is, though, my ambition to go out there and showcase my skills. I still want to win more games with the team and even win a World Cup trophy.

Do you aspire to play in the international women’s leagues? If so, where would you like to play?

Yes, I would like to play in the international leagues. I would play anywhere when an opportunity arises.

What has your family said about your rise in cricket?

My family forms part of my support group. They have been with me since I started playing cricket. They are very proud and happy for me.

Who is the one cricketer you look up to and why?

Makhaya Ntini has always been my role model. I was fortunate to grow up in the same region where he comes from. I used to look up to him and the way he was committed to the game of cricket. He also positioned the rural cricket on the international map.

What is your advice to young people who aspire to play for South Africa?

All I can say to them is that success comes through hard work, dedication, discipline and be a team player. It is also important to have passion for the game.

 

 

Photo 1 Caption: Momentum Proteas and senior Central Gauteng Lions Women’s cricketer, Ayabonga Khaka, is reaping the rewards of her hard labour that has seen her rise from playing cricket in the streets to featuring for the national team. Photo: Supplied

Photo 2 Caption: Khaka was recently recognised with a Presidential Award by her Central Lions Cricket Club for her outstanding contributions for both club and country throughout the 2019/20 season. Photo: Supplied

Photo 3 Caption: In the same week, she received two nominations for the upcoming Cricket South Africa Awards ceremony for her four wickets at the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, including 3/25 in the team’s first win over England in T20 World Cups. She also dismissed Alyssa Healy in the semi-final, which South Africa narrowly lost to eventual champions, Australia. Photo: Supplied

Photo 4 Caption: She was ecstatic to be part of the team after having previously suffered a shoulder injury that left her out of action for a year, which only saw her return to the field late in 2019. Photo: Supplied

Photo 5 Caption: Khaka has spent over a decade in the game which saw her start out in mini cricket, playing for five years in a boys’ team. In 2006, she joined Middledrift Women’s Club, where she was selected to play for the Border Under 19 girls’ team. Simultaneously, she played for the senior provincial team. Photo: Supplied

 

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