Khaka ready to take the attack to India

Ayabonga Khaka will be the tip of the spear when the Proteas face India in the first ODI on Sunday. | BackpagePix

Ayabonga Khaka will be the tip of the spear when the Proteas face India in the first ODI on Sunday. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 12, 2024


Ongama Gcwabe

THE Proteas Women have returned to India, their happy hunting ground given the success that the side has enjoyed in past tours on the subcontinent.

The last time South Africa toured India was three years ago when they beat India Women 4-1 in a five-match ODI series and 2-1 in a three-match T20 series to conclude what was an almost flawless tour.

However, that is all in the past and the current Proteas Women’s team that is on tour looks a lot different to the team that toured three years ago.

The Proteas now have a new captain in Laura Wolvaardt. Numerous senior players have also walked away from international cricket in the past three years, including Lizelle Lee, Dane van Niekerk and Shabnim Ismail.

Their Indian counterparts have also had their fair share of retirements with legendary fast bowler Jhulan Goswami’s being the biggest of the past couple of years. When such impact players retire, they create a ripple effect and both teams have felt the impact of the absence of all the experienced players.

However, South Africa still have a few seniors left from the 2021 tour of India, including Ayabonga Khaka. The fast bowler had the best strike rate during the one-day series triumph three years ago and will certainly be an important player for Wolvaardt on tour.

Despite being the first black African player to reach 100 ODI games for South Africa, Khaka has a slightly different role to play now that Ismail has retired. The 31-year-old now takes the new ball on a regular basis and has to spearhead the attack, alongside Marizanne Kapp, while shielding newbies like Ayanda Hlubi and Eliz-Mari Marx.

Ayabonga Khaka is relishing the challenge of her new role. | BackpagePix

“It is a new role,” Khaka said.

“I’m still trying to figure it out. I had to accept it and take responsibility.

“It is challenging but I’ll take it as it comes because that’s how you grow as a player at the end of the day. I’m pushing to get better at it as the time goes.

“The role that I play for the team now with the new ball has been the big difference. I’ve always tried to welcome the people that come into the team, empower them and try to help them understand international cricket.

“But (Hlubi and Marx) are enjoying this space and enjoy international cricket. I think it’s just for them to grow, making sure that they know their game because there will be times where it’s challenging but I think they will be up for it.”

Coming from a tough season, Khaka believes that they are now in a good space, having spent last season figuring out their style of play and identity.

Khaka says they struggled with execution last season and will be looking to rectify their mistakes starting with the ODI series against India later this week as they also prepare for the World Cup in Bangladesh in a few months.

Said Khaka: “As a bowling unit we’re in a good space. We now understand that it’s not so much about preparation but more about execution during the games.

“Sometimes we felt we didn’t execute but we know exactly what we were supposed to do. Every game you play it’s all about execution and if it’s not there, you will struggle,” said Khaka.

“We understand what the subcontinent will present because we’ve been here many times as a team. It’s going to be tough, with the crowd, but we’ll focus on ticking our boxes and try to forget the outside noise.

“It will help us a lot to play under pressure before the World Cup. With the big crowds, you’re always under pressure and I think it’s going to help us stay calm as a group in the World Cup,” she concluded.

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proteas womencricket