Nonkululeko Mlaba Reflects on Lesson-Filled Year with Proteas

Nonkululeko Mlaba looks back with pride on a unique 2021 that has seen her further cement her place as an international cricketer for the Momentum Proteas ahead of an even more exciting 2022 that features an ICC Women's 50-over Cricket World Cup. Photo: Supplied

Nonkululeko Mlaba looks back with pride on a unique 2021 that has seen her further cement her place as an international cricketer for the Momentum Proteas ahead of an even more exciting 2022 that features an ICC Women’s 50-over Cricket World Cup.

This year saw the Ntuzuma-born rising star play 12 matches in Women’s One-Day International (WODI) and T20 International (WT20I) cricket, taking eight wickets with the best bowling figures of two for 22 across the two formats, while playing a part in the Proteas’ historic series wins in India and the West Indies.

Before going into her exploits on the field, Mlaba, who made her bow in international cricket in 2019, commented on what life off the pitch is like for cricketers in 2021.

“This year was an unusual one because of COVID-19 and a lot of the way we did things was different from the years before the pandemic, such as travelling for example, like when we had the tour to India earlier this year,” the slow left-armer said.

“You would normally get very excited about going on a tour like India, where you will be seeing the people and visiting different places. Now it is not as exciting because you know you will be in a bubble and you are restricted when it comes to going outside, such as going to the shops and experiencing the different cultures,” she added.

On the field, the former Thandolwesizwe High School pupil made a substantial leap in her game, with one of the first signs of progress coming during the Proteas’ 4-1 WODI and 2-1 WT20 series win in Lucknow in March against India.

“I saw a lot of growth in my cricket during the tour to India,” Mlaba, 21 noted.

“I made my Proteas debut in India (2019), at a time when I was still new and not used to the standards of international cricket, so going back there, I could see the growth in my game.

“There are a lot of things I could now do compared to my first tour, including being able to think well about my game and not allowing too many distractions to creep in, things I struggled with before.

“Even playing against the Indian players, who are very good, I was now able to handle the expectations and also study the players I was bowling to and what will work best for me against specific players,” she continued.

Mlaba Forms Part of History in the Caribbean

If the first part of the year was lesson-filled, the second half of 2021 was an enjoyable period for Mlaba as she helped the ladies secure another emphatic series victory away to the West Indies, before returning home to star for the Hollywoodbets Kwa-Zulu Natal Women in the Cricket South Africa (CSA) Women’s Top 6 One-Day Provincial tournament, with bat and ball.

“In the West Indies, I had so much fun. It felt like I had played against them before and it wasn’t that difficult because I had improved my bowling and consistency a bit, so it was an enjoyable time and I could cope with any challenge thrown at me,” Mlaba said.

“I have been working hard on my batting, so heading into the Top 6 BSE, I had worked on my batting and the coach told me that I must be able to contribute as an all-rounder and it paid off because I was able to score runs,” she added.

Despite already representing the Proteas at a global showpiece, having played a role in South Africa’s impressive run to the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup semi-finals in Australia, Mlaba, who is known as “Leftie” in the cricket fraternity, is hoping to make it on the plane for next year’s 50-over tournament in New Zealand.

“Firstly, my goal is to be a part of the World Cup squad because you never know if you will be in the squad or not but if I make the team, I am looking forward to playing a 50-over World Cup because It will be my first one.

“There are a lot of differences between 50-over and T20 cricket, so I will be experiencing something different, and I am excited to learn something new, learning off the experienced professional players at the tournament and the challenge of playing against the world’s best,” Mlaba concluded.

Mlaba and the Momentum Proteas are currently in Gqeberha for a two-week national camp ahead of a busy period in the new year featuring an inbound tour against the West Indies kicking off from 18 January in at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

 

Photo 1 Caption: Nonkululeko Mlaba looks back with pride on a unique 2021 that has seen her further cement her place as an international cricketer for the Momentum Proteas ahead of an even more exciting 2022 that features an ICC Women’s 50-over Cricket World Cup. Photo: Supplied

With editing by gsport

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