My favorite team is RCB and I like Virat Kohli: Laura Wolvaardt [Interview]

Laura Wolvaardt opens about her role in the middle-order in the T20I format and her favorite IPL franchise.

Interview with Laura Wolvaardt.
Interview with Laura Wolvaardt.

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Sometimes a change is what you need. South Africa’s management thought on those lines, it seems, and demoted Laura Wolvaardt to the middle-order. Traditionally she has always opened the batting for Proteas, and so far, her record in ODIs is staggering, to say the least.

A free-flowing batter and more of a classical mold, Wolvaardt has so far scored 2310 in 61 matches with a stunning average of 45.29. But same cannot be said about her T20I numbers up until the last year’s ICC T20 World Cup. South Africa are known to throw in surprises, and this time they handed over a new role to the elegant right-hand batter- to mane the middle-order.

Wolvaardt didn’t disappoint and truly had a memorable T20 World Cup scoring 94. Her 53 unbeaten knock against Pakistan was a top-notch knock and a masterclass in powerless hitting. Her classical cover drives were on full display, and Pakistani captain Javeria Khan could not even stop putting more than five fielders manning the off-side. That knock was what Wolvaardt needed to turn a corner.

Next up, she faced Australia in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup and almost took her team home by scoring an unbeaten 41 only to be denied victory at the end. That knock too had was orthodox, and there were no flashy strokes.

The 22-year-old ended up scoring 94 runs in the global event and was the only South African player included in the team of the tournament. COVID-19 pandemic halted Wolvaardt’s hot-streak of form, but she returned even stronger and has so far scored 15*, 13, 9*, 53*, 0, 35*, 33*, and 3 in eight T20I innings batting down the order. The management’s decision of pushing her down the order helped her to re-discover herself.

In an exclusive interview with CricTraker, the South African superstar spoke about her new role in T20I format, her bonding with Jemimah Rodrigues in The Hundred, South Africa’s rise, and which team she will play for if women’s IPL is started.

You’ve been opening for South Africa for some time. How did this number 4 change occur in the T20I format?

I started my T20 career opening, and I just never really made a massive contribution. I think if you look at my start they weren’t great at all, and I played like 20-25 games or something opening the batting. I think the management, thought of moving me to lower down the order. From the very first innings or so it went well for me. I guess it was nice for me to come in and have to field spread. I could get myself in and still score runs for the team. I think it was a really good change from the selectors and so far so good was was number 4.

Tell us about your equation with Jemimah Rodrigues and the atmosphere in the Northern Superchargers dugout?

It (The Hundred) was an awesome competition. It was very exciting and energetic, and there were a lot of fans in the games which is always a really fun thing to have. To have Rodrigues was really good. This is the cool thing about such competitions that you get to know other people.

I feel like Jemimah and I play quite similarly and see the game in a similar way. She’s very focused on technique and timing the ball, and seeing her using that and being able to score many many runs in the tournament was good to see. So, I feel like I learned a bit from her as well.”

What is the secret behind coach Hilton Moreeng’s success and the bonding with the players?

Hilton, he’s been with us for a very long time, so it’s been really cool to see how he kind of started with the team when it wasn’t professional, and with only a handful of contract players. I think he has had an important role in developing the team and the players into creating that depth for South African cricket. I’m very happy that we are performing for him right now because I know how much work he puts in behind the scenes.

Last year Dinesha Devnarain was roped in by South Africa for the Under-19 team. Can we expect more such players donning the role of the coach in the future in the women’s game?

Dinesha is a really great coach, and I think it’s really cool that she had so much international experience herself as well as a player. To have in the Under-19 setup is huge for our cricket. From a player’s point of view as well because she spends through everything so I think it’s cool that women players are coming back into the game and helping the game grow especially having played themselves during their time.

I think you learn a few things in coaching that you might not always know as a player. Anneke Bosch the youngster grabbed her chances during the India series, and Dinesha has an important role in it.

Tell us about your WBBL experience with Brisbane Heat and Adelaide Strikers?

I played for Brisbane when I was very young. It was such an awesome experience for me. I think they gave me great freedom to express myself. It was all about power-hitting mixing with caution, and scoring as many runs as possible in the first 10 balls. I learned a lot.

Last season I played for Adelaide strikers, and it was an awesome tournament as well. I enjoyed the time with the Strikers it’s like my second home.  The cricket in BBL is high standard as well so I’m really happy that I got to play there a couple of times.

Tell us the secret behind those textbook cover drives?

I don’t know, I guess it’s just been my favorite shot since childhood. I always probably work on at the most out of all of my shots. I just really enjoy it and it makes me score a lot of runs which is cool it’s just my favorite thing.

Mignon du Preez sees shades of you in her. Talk us through your equation with her.

She is just an awesome person to have on your team. She’s one of the most experienced players and was our captain before as well. So, to have her playing with us, you can learn so much from her wealth of knowledge and experience. I’m not too sure what she means by seeing me in her or something like that. But if I could play like her one day, I think that would be pretty cool.

The past two ICC events went well for South Africa. What are your thoughts regarding the upcoming 50-over World Cup?

Hopefully, we can get over all the semi-final losses that we keep having. I think we just have a really good group of players, I think it’s been a long time coming but, we’ve all players are all kind of the close to the fag end of the career. We have some super experienced players and exciting newcomers on the team. I think that this World Cup is probably our best chance I would say because we have all of these players who are really at the top of their game and who knows what happens in the next four years’ time. So, I think we have a really good chance of winning this time.

How is the team shaping up for the tournament?

We’ve had a couple of good ODI series. The key thing for us has been a bit more consistency with the bat. Our bowlers are always very consistent and we have some world-class bowlers and a  great attack. It’s just been about the batters backing it up. We’re slowly getting more consistent now. Tightening up our fielding is going to be a key focus going ahead as that is one area we are keen on doing well

There are a lot of talks going on about the strike rate in 50-over cricket. Do you think 260-270 is the way ahead in this format going ahead?

If you want to be comfortable after batting first you have to get close to 280. I think nowadays teams can chase down very high totals especially on a good wicket. So that’s something that we talk about as well especially strike right in that middle overs. I think that’s kind of where we’ve been lacking. We got off to decent starts and we finish well but there’s a lot of dot ball in the middle phase of the innings. So, we have had conversations to improve on it and get to that 270-280 score.

Can we expect any changes in the team’s batting order?

In India, we had a lot of newcomers because we had a few players injured over there. So, the nice thing is now that we have a bit more depth. I think we had a couple of people stepping up in the last series so that creates a bit of healthy competition. We will have to see what the selectors decide for the rest of the series but now we’re very glad to have Dane van Niekerk back on the team.

Who do you want to face as your opponent in the finals of the World Cup?

Maybe India, always bring a big following to the game so I think that game will be huge for us in terms of audience and viewing.

India is going to play two Tests this year? Do we see South Africa playing Tests in the coming few years?

Unfortunately, I don’t think we have any Test matches confirmed but that would be such an awesome experience to be a part of. Very jealous of India having to get to play two Tests this year. I love Test cricket pretty much and hopefully one day in the next few years I’ll be able to play a test but, I’ll keep my fingers crossed until then.

One franchise you would like to play if Women’s IPL starts full-fledged?

My favorite team is Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), and I like Virat Kohli. So it would be pretty cool to be part of that team.