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IND vs SA: ‘We Won’t Take This Indian Side Too Lightly’ – Laura Wolvaardt

As the South African cricket team are all set on their tour of India, the stakes are high, with the series acting as a pivotal moment ahead of the T20 World Cup. In the recent press conference of Captain Laura Wolvaardt, she provided a glimpse into the team’s preparations, mindset, and strategies as they face a formidable Indian side.

Fine-Tuning the Lineup

Laura Wolvaardt emphasized the importance of the series in finalising the squad for the upcoming World Cup. “We’ve had a couple of good tours before this, where we tried different combinations. In the Sri Lanka T20s, we definitely gave a bunch of youngsters some opportunity to try and put up their hand,” she stated, reflecting on the recent T20 series against Sri Lanka where young talents were given opportunities.

However, she indicated a shift in focus for the India series: “If everyone is healthy and fit, I think we’ll be looking to play our best 11. We won’t be experimenting too much or taking this Indian side too lightly. They’re a world-class side and we need to be at our best to beat them. We will be trying to get everyone settled into their roles before the World Cup is pretty important as well with it being some of our last cricket that we’re going to be playing before then.”

Multifaceted Preparation

With the ODI World Cup on the horizon, Laura Wolvaardt highlighted the team’s comprehensive approach to preparations across formats.

“There’s a lot that we’re focusing on at the moment. The ODIs have points up for grabs, the T20s are in prep for the World Cup, and the test match is pretty special too. I think we’ve tried to cover everything and have to try and cover everything. There isn’t really one that’s massively more important than the other. We’d like to do well all around and there isn’t a format that we’re taking lightly.” This holistic strategy underlines South Africa’s ambition to excel in every format, ensuring no stone is left unturned.

South Africa will look to put away the scars of the T20 series and focus on the ODIs [Image: Getty]
South Africa will look to put away the scars of the T20 series and focus on the ODIs [Image: Getty]

Personal Growth and Leadership of Laura Wolvaardt

Reflecting on her captaincy, Wolvaardt shared insights into her personal growth. “Been in a lot of learnings. Firstly, there’s been obviously on-field stuff. I think being just about it before and having to learn a lot about bowlers and bowling plans has been quite a big eye-opener for me, cricket-wise,” she said.

She further added, “I think it’s helped me as a batter as well. I think I’m starting to see the game more from a bowler perspective and that sort of helps me when I’m out there in the middle.”

The role has also pushed her out of her comfort zone, encouraging her to be more sociable and engaged with the team. “I’ve obviously been forced to come out of my comfort zone a little bit. Usually, I’m quite a quiet reserved person. I would sort of stick to myself, but I can’t really do that when you’re captain. So I have to sort of mingle and check in with people and be a bit more sociable than I used to be. So yeah, I think it’s helped me grow as a person and as a cricketer as well. So it’s been good so far.”

Strategic Recall and Spin Focus

The recall of allrounder Nondumiso Shangase, who bowls off-spin, underscores South Africa’s tactical planning for Indian conditions. “With her being an off-spinner and I think, you know, India being known for spin-friendly conditions, I think it was important to have her in the squad,” Laura Wolvaardt explained.

Shangase’s form in the nets has been promising, adding a crucial element to South Africa’s arsenal. “I haven’t seen her in a while and it looks like she’s really hitting the ball well in the nets as well. So yeah, she’s there as that spinning all around her, which is something that’s crucial for these conditions, I think. So very happy to have her back around the group.”

Test Match Significance

Playing a test match in India is a rare and significant opportunity for the South African team. “I think obviously very special to get to be here and to play a test match in India. I don’t think, you know, many South African cricketers have gotten that opportunity before,” Wolvaardt remarked.

“Obviously not too sure what to expect if I’ve never been to Chennai before, but I think probably the play against spin will be crucial to see how well we’re able to adapt and play against their spinners in a test match for long periods of time. So yeah, that’s sort of been our focus leading up to that. I’m very excited for it.”

The team’s preparation has focused on adapting to spin-friendly conditions, which will be crucial for their success in the longer format.

South Africa
South Africa

Confidence and Preparation

The South African team is drawing confidence from their successful tour in 2021 and the solid preparation leading into this series. “We’ve had a good couple of weeks of prep and some time at home to regroup. I feel like we’ve had some good preparation leading into this series,” said Wolvaardt. The familiarity with Indian conditions, bolstered by participation in the WPL, has equipped players like Wolvaardt with valuable insights. “Facing a variety of bowlers in the WPL has been wonderful for my cricket.”

Anticipation and Challenges

Despite the thorough preparation, Wolvaardt acknowledged the challenges ahead. “Obviously they’ve played a lot of cricket recently. The Women’s Premier League [WPL] was absolutely amazing. And the amount of cricket that the Indian girls get to play over here is really cool. Luckily a few of us were able to play in the tournament as well.” 

“With myself being able to get a few games and to get used to the conditions and playing over here, which was nice. They obviously have world-class players. So we’ve done a lot of sort of homework on that and a lot of discussions. So hopefully we have our plans sorted out by the first game.”

“The Indian women’s team is obviously a really great cricket team and they’ve played a lot of good cricket recently. And with the WPL as well, just having that game time and playing some really good explosive cricket. So I think in the past, spin has always been a big issue for us as well. But now the Indian batters are playing good cricket and free cricket as well. So it’ll be a big challenge for us. But hopefully, we’re up for it and we can sort of match that.” She highlighted the need for smart planning, particularly in bowling, to counter India’s explosive batting lineup.

Reflecting on the conditions, she added, “For the test match in Chennai, we’re expecting slower conditions. So we are just trying to replicate that as well as we can. Just working on different things, batting-wise specifically and what we can do to combat that and to combat slower spin and just face a lot of spin because India is sort of known for their good spinners and high-quality spinners.”

“So far in training, it’s been pretty bouncy and coming onto the bat pretty nicely, which has been sort of similar to what we face. But obviously then you never really know what to expect because sometimes you get a wicket here that’s really slow and turns a lot more than what we’re used to. So that differs quite a bit from what we used to back at home.”

“I think we’ll have to be very smart in our options, very smart in our plan A and probably B and C as well if it comes to that. And yeah the Indian bet is at betting very well at the moment and very explosive so I think planning will be key around our bowling attack. I think we do definitely have the talent and the right people but we’ll just have to plan properly for each battle.”

Advantages of playing in the WPL

“I think it’s been awesome. For me to be able to come over here and play cricket in India for a full month is wonderful for my cricket. Also getting to face a bunch of different bowlers, getting to face most of the bowlers in the Indian setup, I think definitely benefits me as a batter. So I think overall it benefits the international players but benefits the local Indians as well who get to sort of feed off of that international knowledge and knowledge from people from different countries. So I think everyone sort of helps each other at those tournaments.”

New Coaching Dynamics

The tour marks the first with the new coaching setup under Dillon du Preez. While the absence of long-time coach Hilton Moreeng is felt, Wolvaardt is optimistic about the fresh perspectives and energy brought in by the new coaches.

South Africa will take away positives nonetheless [Image: Getty]
South Africa will take away positives nonetheless [Image: Getty]
“It’s obviously been a bit different for us. I think obviously Hilton was on every single tour for the past 11 years, so to not have him here is a bit weird. But luckily Dillan was in the setup in the environment for about four or five years, so nothing has really changed too much from sort of an operational point of view. I think we still try to keep things as much the same as before, just so that it’s not completely new and completely fresh.”

Final Preparations

As the team approaches their warm-up game, the focus is on acclimatizing to conditions rather than just performance.

“Warm-up games are always a tricky one. You don’t want to do too well and get overconfident, but you always don’t want to do too bad and start on the back foot. But I think tomorrow is mainly about conditions for us. I think we’re lucky to be playing on the ground where our games will be as well. That doesn’t happen too often for a warm-up game,” Laura Wolvaardt explained.

Playing on the same ground as their upcoming matches provides a strategic advantage in understanding the pitch behaviour. “I think conditions will be crucial to see how much it turns, how much it bounces. I think it will be more about that and making sure that the whole squad or that everyone gets a chance on the conditions and has a look.”

As South Africa gears up for this crucial series against India, the blend of experienced insights, strategic recalls, and fresh coaching perspectives sets the stage for a highly competitive and exciting showdown. Wolvaardt’s leadership and the team’s comprehensive preparation will be pivotal as they aim to set a strong foundation ahead of the World Cup.

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