South Africa’s enigmatic captain, Mignon du Preez, is looking forward to the tough challenges that the ICC Women’s World Cup India 2013 will bring her and the side when the tournament begins in Mumbai on 31 January.
The side are in Group B with Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan and the diminutive batter admits that South Africa’s women will not have it easy facing any of the teams in the group.
“Australia will most probably be our toughest competition in the group stage. They are the current ICC World Twenty20 champions; probably giving them huge confidence going into the tournament.
“However, they are also under a lot of pressure to win this World Cup after recently defeating the current ICC Women’s World Cup champions, England, in the final of the ICC WT20. They are very good in all three aspects of the game and have quite a few star players with lots of experience like Lisa Sthalekar, Jodie Fields, Ellyse Perry, Alex Blackwell, Jess Cameron and Meg Lanning,” admitted du Preez.
New Zealand, the runners up from the 2009 event will also prove a big challenge says the 23-year-old from Pretoria: “Facing the runners-up from the last ICC Women’s World Cup in our opening game, televised and under lights is definitely going to be a big challenge for us. They are also a very strong side and have made it to the semi-finals and finals numerous times in both formats.
“We have recently played them in the ICC World Twenty20 and we saw that the gap between us and them has definitely closed. We know what we can expect from them, so we just have to work on a few things from our side and ensure that when the momentum is on our side, we need to keep it with us. They also have a lot of experienced players like captain Suzie Bates, bowler Nicola Browne plus the likes of Sara McGlashan, Sian Ruck and Amy Satterthwaite.”
Pakistan makes up Group B and they are a side that South Africa is targeting in its bid to qualify for the Super Sixes section of the tournament. “Playing against a sub-continent side in the sub-continent is never going to be an easy task especially with the way they have improved over the past few years,” admitted du Preez.
“However, Pakistan will be our main target to help us secure a spot in the Super Sixes. We have quite a good track record against Pakistan and hopefully we can keep it that way. In our recent encounter at the ICC World Twenty20, we had managed to come out on top and have a bit of momentum going for us. Their bowling attack is very powerful and they also have star players like Sana Mir, Nain Abidi, Bismah Maroof and Javeria Khan.”
The prospect of playing in India is one that du Preez is relishing: “I am extremely excited about playing in India. I have travelled to the country before, to film the ICC WT20 advertising campaign, but this will be my first time playing in India and I can’t wait. I think it will be an amazing experience to playing cricket in a country where cricket is almost like a religion – I am literally counting the sleeps until we arrive!”
“I think with the improvement we have shown it is clear that we are catching up with the rest of the world,” admits du Preez when talking about her own side. “We definitely have the talent and the skills, I think we just need to play a lot more competitive cricket in order to gain experience and to learn from those experiences.
“We are currently in the West Indies to play some competitive cricket and to prepare us for the World Cup. I also think we can focus a bit more on the mental-side of things and work on our mental toughness and self-belief.”
With regards to self-belief, du Preez believes the mind-set of her side will be key for the tournament as the change from 20-overs to 50-overs isn’t seamless.
“I think the biggest challenge going from an ICC World Twenty20 to an ICC Cricket World Cup is the mind-set shift that is required and then adapting your skill to the different format. I believe it’s definitely going to take brilliant individual performances within the team environment to help us to do well in the ICC Women’s World Cup and every single player is going to play a vital role.
“With the 50-over World Cup, fitness is going to play a vital role in the hot and humid India. Thus a lot of our time is currently spent on getting us as fit as possible while working on different aspects of our individual game. We recently had a structure change and we now have a new coach and we are certain that seeing things from his different perspective will also add value,” concluded the Proteas’ captain.