HomeWomen's CricketIn Mignon Du Preez's Retirement, A Titan Of Cricket...

In Mignon Du Preez’s Retirement, A Titan Of Cricket Has Left The Pitch

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2018 was a huge year for World Cricket. Several interesting battles kept audiences on their tenterhooks throughout the course of a memorable year. India, led by Virat Kohli, were competing with a Faf-led South Africa in a closely-fought bilateral series. While South Africa held the upperhand in Tests, India valiantly fought back to take the ODI series by a storm.

Elsewhere, ten teams were jostling in the World Cup qualifiers too book a place in the coveted 2019 World Cup. Zimbabwe was the epicentre of some closely-fought clashes featuring teams like the host nation, PNG, Hong Kong, Nepal, Ireland, and even the West Indies to name a few.

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2018 would, of course, be that year where the White Ferns would write record books for scoring what is to this day, the highest-ever team total in ODIs: the Suzie Bates-led side obliterating Ireland on way to a humongous 490 run score bludgeoned by 64 fours and 7 sixes.

Carnage in its purest form birthed the arrival of Amelia Kerr, a double hundred in the game, in the truest sense. But this landmark moment for Cricket arrived in June; something else and vitaly important had already happened in February.

On Feb 10, 2018, the Proteas women were facing an uphill task against India. The white-ball series (which would also feature T20Is later) was on its final legs, but there was so much to lose from a South African point of view at Potchefstroom.

The Dane Van Niekerk-led side had gone down in the first two ODIs. Just who’d have thought that the hosts would be knocked so hard by Mithali Raj’s girls?

The Rock of SA!

Mignon du Preez

All that remained in the way of India whitewashing the Proteas was this last game. That’s precisely when Mignon du Preez came in the way of a buoyant side and one confronting the idea of a backbreaking defeat.

In chasing 241, which going by South Africa’s poor batting standards in the series, was a huge total, Mignon du Preez played an inning of a lifetime to score a lioness’s share of runs in ensuring that South Africa fought back hard.

Her glorious 90 off 111 paving the way for a team that at one stage, with 51 for 2, was surely looking uncertain.

The start to her inning, however, wasn’t ideal, and was, at best, slow. From 2 from 11 deliveries, the noted right hander went to 7 from 18 and then, 8 off 23.

At the other end was Laura Wolvaardt, the current poster girl of South African cricket, the youngster going for her shots knowing well that at the other end was the experienced and calm presence of Du Preez.

Soon, the old guard of Proteas cricket would hold the centerstage. Glowing drives against Shikha Pandey, crisp footwork against the spin duo of Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad offered hope- not consolation- that the team won’t be doomed and that an able batter had stepped in when the team most needed.

In the end, South Africa hopped home with four deliveries to spare. Raj and her team couldn’t believe it. You felt bad for Mandhana, who had scored all along the contests. But Du Preez had saved the day.

But what was special about the knock, emphatic even, is that for someone who had scored a duck in the first ODI and was dropped for the second, played the difference when the series was on the line.

Which is why it makes perfect sense when they say that good players make lots of runs but the greats make them especially when facing duress.

One of Mignon du Preez’s finest moments in the sport came during her team’s moment of great suffering: the 2017 World cup semi final.

At Gloucestershire, Heather Knight’s side had overcome the South African challenge of scoring 219 in the final over of the contest.

There were tears everywhere, one side’s heart blooming with joy with the other crushed with despair at having crashed out of the mega event.

But the one who stood tall amid pressure and ensured her side, at least, challenged England for victory, was Mignon du Preez.

What’s upsetting in the general context of the sport, but hugely disappointing especially to the intrepid fan of Women’s game is that at a time where a banal fifty by Dhoni, a routine century by Williamson, or a match-winning forty by a Maxwell have been decorated with astonishing adjectives, whether in press or online journals, little was written and ever so little talked about on what was perhaps among the finest innings in any Women’s ODI semi-final.

For someone who came inside the twelfth over with her team down and nearly out at 48 for 2 and continued to bat until the end, Mignon first rescued, then resuscitated her team to reach 218 in the end.

Her own contribution? 76 unbeaten runs.

Mignon du Preez

Nearly a third of the deliveries harangued at her team were faced by the brave defender of South Africa’s pride.

What most will remember to this day is Sarah Taylor’s 54 off 76 or that Heather Knight and Fran Wilson chipped in with their useful 30s.

But little will they say about the woman who single-handedly ensured South Africa remained in the contest and gave their bowlers something to defend at.

Her fluent strokes square on the off side with Shrubsole and Brunt, greats of the game, attacking in tandem warrant every bit of respect as well as enthusiasm with which we cricket fans obsess about the trivialness of the sport, say instances where a Chahal posts a dancing video of his.

Her off drives against Jenny Gunn warrant the same attention with which we read irrelevant pieces of journalism that highlight which plush bar did Gayle party away last night or where did Anushka and Kohli have lunch yesterday.

What was beautiful, heartbreakingly so, was Du Preez’s conduct in the aftermath of the semi-final loss. Among the first to console captain Dane Van Niekerk, down and out, her face buried in her palm, was Du Preez, who lest you forget, was as heartbroken as her mates, but chose instead of veil her emotions, intaking the pain only so someone could put up with a brave face.

But what makes Mignon a one-of-a-kind cricketer, as giving as she’s capable, aren’t just her runs or feats alone; it’s the manner in which she’s scored them, often amid heartbreaks, often amid challenges but always with determination.

In the recent World Cup contest where the Proteas reached the semi final stage, it was down to Mignon du Preez and an obstinate Indian attack. With one needed off the final delivery, Mignon came down the track to Deepti Sharma, guiding her team home, scoring once again a fifty, the eighteenth and as it turns out, the last of her career when the team most needed.

As she walks away from the twin formats that defined her cricket- purposeful, diligent and aimed at the team’s cause- what’s left is more than the mathematical weight of what she achieved: 3,760 ODI runs with 18 fifties and 2 hundreds.

A true ambassador for the game

Mignon du Preez

You’ve got to pay regard to the selflessness with which she played Cricket, her love of life. And you possibly can’t cast a blind eye to the smile with which she shouldered responsibility and healed tense nerves.

During South Africa’s historic series triumph in India of 2021, one of the lasting images in the aftermath of the series wasn’t the Proteas women going gaga having won where they never had in so many previous runs; it was the candid shot of India’s Jemimah Rodriguez posing cutely with Mignon Du Preez, two opponents coming together to celebrate cricket.

At a time where she could have grown proud and perhaps insular in achieving so much: captaining South Africa in both ODIs and T20Is, finding worldwide acclaim in scoring most ODI runs for her country, and in finding legions of admirers outside of her native Protea land given her WBBL exploits, Mignon chose to become yet more simple and humble.

To a team that’s often painted in exuberant decoratives- Proteas fire and that insane level of energy they unfailingly bring to the pitch- Mignon brought smiles and liked upholding the dignity of the game.

She’s collected a lot more than just hard fought runs off the pitch; whilst away from it, she’s even coached the Solidarity Cup’s KG’s Kingfishers (2020) and has to her credit the famous Mignon du Preez gates of the Centurion-bound SuperSport park.

But the greats don’t swell in self-pride, they persist with simplicity.

Which is why the first woman to score 1,000 T2oI runs for the Proteas and the first to reach the daunting 3,000 run mark (ODI) is as sane in her exit as she was upon her arrival in the game, preferring to eschew emotions that could so easily have overwhelmed her.

I’ve been fortunate to have played four ICC world cups and I feel the time is right to step away and allow the next generation of exciting cricketers to continue to grow this beautiful game of ours,” confessed Mignon du Preez, one who always played cricket with the right spirit and with malice towards none!

Of course, it’s to our good fortune that she’s made herself available for T20Is.

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Dev Tyagi
Dev Tyagi
Dravid believer, admirer of - the square drive, Drew Barrymore, Germany, Finland, Electric Mobility, simplicity and the power of the written word! Absolutely admire contributing to KyroSports

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