After being named Cricketer of the Year at the Cricket South Africa awards last weekend, women’s national team captain Dane van Niekerk said that it was an emotional moment after a “rough six months”.
The 26-year-old all-rounder has spent the majority of 2019 on the sidelines due to a fractured right fermur and admitted to having a tough time out of the game, but the high recognition has come as some tonic.
"It's obviously a bit of an emotional ride for me right now," she said. "It was a pretty rough six months for me. I love the game, so being away, from my team-mates first of all, and being away from the game, was really tough. But that happens in any career and I'm just stoked."
Van Niekerk had been in standout form before being hit by injury, hitting a purple patch, starting in June last year, and excelling with bat and ball. Van Niekerk’s leadership by example was instrumental in her also being the players’ choice for Player of the Year.
"First of all, the recognition from my team-mates, that means the most because it shows they appreciated the efforts that I put in before I got injured, and then, obviously, getting Player of the Year, I didn't expect it.
"There were a lot of players, who after my injury put up their hand by playing really well. I really feel honoured."
Among those players that van Niekerk speaks of is 20-year-old Tumi Sekhukhune, who has claimed 10 wickets in nine one-day internationals with her right-arm pace, and has conceded runs at 6.06 after over 40 overs in T20 internationals.
Her terrific rookie year, which began with her debut against West Indies Women in September last year, earned her the International Women’s Newcomer of the Year award.
"I was really overwhelmed after winning the award," Sekhukhune said. "I think the only thing that got me here was hard work and dedication to my job over the past year, and I feel really privileged to be given this award.
"I've been getting more exposure and experience by being in the Proteas set-up, especially at a very young age. With more experience, my performances can get even better. It's great to be able to play for my country and represent this proud Proteas badge."