Since the selection of the first national squad after democracy in 1997, women’s cricket in South Africa has received more support than ever before. A proper structure, the Cricket South Africa Women’s Cricket Committee, has been put in place, dedicated to ensuring the interests of players, and women’s cricket as a whole.
It has been a long journey for Women’s cricket in South Africa, which can be traced as far back as the Pioneers Women’s Cricket Club, which was established in 1902 in Port Elizabeth. The sport grew amongst women in the coming years, but fell away after the Second World War as a result of economic and social consequences. After nearly an eight decade hiatus, women’s cricket in South Africa was resurrected following the rise of democracy and the end of apartheid.
The road to democracy, which included the release and unbanning of Nelson Mandela and his fellow political prisoners as well as the ANC in 1990, also saw the union of South Africa’s two cricket bodies which had always been at odds, the SACB and SACU. These two bodies were joined in 1991 to form the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) which later became Cricket South Africa (CSA).
The prioritization of development in cricket in previously disadvantaged areas all over the country also meant that women’s cricket was rejuvenated. The UCBSA ensured that all the conditions of the new constitution of South Africa were met, which meant racial integration and equal opportunities were afforded to all.
Due to the new nature of the UCBSA, certain areas of cricket were assembled in “target groups,” this included women cricketers who were then allotted for “accelerated advancement because of historical imbalances” along with black African and disabled cricketers.
In order for women’s cricket to develop, time had to be spent on training and empowering women cricketers. This meant that for the first time, women were getting the opportunity to become not only players, but coaches and administrators within programmes of the UCBSA. In the early 2000s more than 9000 women from 1 109 schools and 269 clubs were taking part in cricket in South Africa.
The Bakers Mini cricket Programme provided a platform for young girls to participate on a larger scale than ever before. Due to the popularity of the sport for girls in schools, Johmari Logtenberg from KwaZulu-Natal became the first girl to play cricket for a boys’ provincial team, which had her compete in the under-13 primary schools tournament in East London in the 2001/2002 season. She later became captain.
The 2000s saw the launch of a decentralised inter-provincial league which replaced the once a year centralised inter-provincial tournaments. A Girls under-16 national tournament was included into the existing under-19 national tournament. The love and support of cricket has not only grown among women who enjoy playing it, but also with spectators. Today, about 50 percent of South African television viewers who follow cricket, are women.
The first women’s national squad after democracy was selected in 1997 to tour England and Ireland. In the same year, South Africa reached the quarter finals of the World Cup in India. South Africa then made it to the semi-finals in the 2001 World Cup in New Zealand and went on to host the World Cup in 2005. Nolubabalo Ndzundzu, a batsman from Border became the first Black African to make the national side.
The success in the journey of women’s cricket shows mostly in the positions held by women in the world of cricket today; Elise Lombard is the CEO of Northerns Cricket Union while Thandi Orelyn was the first woman to be appointed to CSA’s Board of Directors.
Women cricketers have now found representation on the General Council of CSA. The Women’s Cricket Committee consists of Kerri Laing (President), Zola Thamae (Vice President), Noor Rhode (Secretary) and Ilse Landghout (Treasure). This committee is responsible for the continued development and success of women’s cricket in South Africa.
In 2002, in an effort to standardize women’s cricket, the ICC and the International Women’s Cricket Council agreed to amalgamate. This was finally achieved in 2005 bringing together men and women cricketers under one global co-ordinating body for the first time. As a result, women’s cricket has expanded from 15 countries which were affiliated to the old IWCC to 78 (out of 101) ICC member countries “with some form of women or girls cricket”.
The new direction in women’s cricket which was promised by the ICC began to take place with the inclusion of the first international Twenty20 match between England and New Zealand ain 2005 and the inaugural women’s ICC World Twenty20 tournament in England in 2009. The top teams played in curtain-raisers in the famous stadia where the matches of their male counterparts’ competition were held. This has brought about more exposure than ever to women’s cricket and has raised the standard of the top international teams (England, New Zealand, Australia and India) exponentially.
CSA aims to continue building the brand of women’s cricket by encouraging more women to play, coach, support and sustain this incredible game.
We cannot undo the past, but we can shape the future. We do what we do today, for what will happen TOMORROW!