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Dane Van Niekerk ‘Uncomfortable’ in Cricket Kit After Fitness Issues

Former South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk says she feels “uncomfortable” wearing cricket clothes, five months after being controversially dropped over fitness issues.

The 30-year-old was omitted from the squad for February’s T20 World Cup on home soil after failing to meet the time for a 2km run.

Van Niekerk, who made her comeback for Sunrisers in the Charlotte Edwards Cup in May, subsequently retired from international cricket.

“In everyday life I’ll walk around in shorts and a T-shirt. I feel OK – like a human, a normal human being,” she told BBC Sport Africa.

“I don’t feel like I’m overweight; I don’t feel uncomfortable. But the moment I put on cricket clothes I feel uncomfortable, and I don’t feel like I need to.

“It’s easy to speak about the fitness aspect. It’s not a lie – I was never the leanest cricketer in the world, but I won games for franchises. I won games for my country.

“I realise how important fitness is – I’ll never shy away from that – but you cannot diminish somebody or make them feel bad because [they] don’t look and do the things the way that you expect.”

‘My job is not to get a gold medal at the Olympics’

Van Niekerk made her debut for South Africa as a 16-year-old in 2009 before assuming the captaincy in 2016.

The hard-hitting batter, who scored 17 in her comeback match at Lord’s last Thursday, played 194 internationals, including a semi-final defeat by England at the 2017 World Cup. Pride in all of that rightly remains.

“My average chasing is the most in the world. There should be a balance with these protocols and policies, which I heard many times,” she said.

“You’re there to play cricket and win games for a country, and if you’re capable to do that, even though you don’t run as fast as you should, then it should take preference because that’s your job.

“My job is not to get a gold medal at the Olympics and you are telling me you are picking people that run faster.

“I saw it as you’re creating an environment where I just need to run faster more than I need to be better.

“That got me because, as a cricketer and as a captain, that’s not what I want.”

Van Niekerk captained South Africa in their only Test, as well as playing 107 one-day internationals and 86 T20s, and won the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia with Adelaide Strikers.

“I’ve got X amount of runs (4,074) behind my name; I’ve got X amount of wickets (204). So where do we draw the line?” she said.

“I can only speak about me as Dane, and I just think what has been done to me on a personal level.”

‘I hadn’t been eating’

Van Niekerk is married to South Africa fast bowler Marizanne Kapp, and says the turbulent period has taken a toll on her partner.

“She’s a lot more emotional than I am. Sometimes I find her crying, and I can’t understand why she’s crying, and then she would tell me she’s crying for me,” van Niekerk said.

“Marizanne was in the room after the fitness test, and I came short, and I’ll be breaking down because I’ve been pushing myself into the ground.

“I hadn’t been eating. She sees that’s not healthy. She lived it with me.

“But she’s good. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. She’s been wonderful in supporting me. I’m just very blessed to have her.”

Van Niekerk signed a two-month contract to play the T20 regional game and the 50-over Rachel Heyhoe-Flint Trophy for Sunrisers, whose stakeholders are Middlesex, Essex and Northamptonshire.

She will return to captain Oval Invincibles in The Hundred in August, having been part of the side that won the competition for the past two years.

Kapp will join Van Niekerk towards the end of June before they return home together, but a comeback for South Africa on the international stage looks unlikely for Van Niekerk.

“It’s probably not (going to happen). I’ve said my piece and they’ve said their piece, but it’s an environment that was created and broken down,” Van Niekerk said.

“It’s probably not the environment I want to be part of as a human being. I’m not perfect by a very long stretch, but putting 14 years into something and it being something that you worked so hard for it…

“I don’t think there’s any hard feelings or any animosity. Something big must happen for me to consider it, and I doubt it will.”

If an international return seems unlikely, then what does the future hold and what motivates Van Niekerk now?

She has hit the heights in cricket and experienced a dramatic low, so the answer is not too difficult to imagine for someone who has given and received so much from the the game.

“The connectivity I’ve had with cricket the last few months was so negative, but the love for the game has always been there and that will never change,” Van Niekerk said.

“I wanted to win a World Cup for my country – that was so dear to my heart – and unfortunately now that’s never going to happen.

“It’s just finding that love and changing the connotation to cricket, finding that edge again.

“I just want to do well. I’m in the right environment to do that. I just want to have fun and contribute.”

Source : BBC