Photo Credit: Cricket South Africa / Getty Images
Momentum Proteas left-arm spinner, Nonkululeko Mlaba believes T20 cricket brings the best out of her following more impressive performances for South Africa in 2022 while the nation prepares to host the 2023 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in February next year.
As the Proteas’ frontline spin bowler in the shorter format throughout the year, the KwaMashu-born youngster affectionately known as ‘Leftie’ has made her way back into the top 10 of the ICC Women’s T20I Rankings, making it as high as seventh place before settling in eighth in the latest standings.
This year, Mlaba has played in seven T20 Internationals (T20I), against Ireland, England as well as in the historic Commonwealth Games campaign, taking nine wickets at an average of 16.33, including a career-best return of three for 22 against the English In Derbyshire.
“I am very happy about being in the top 10,” Mlaba noted.
“It’s not the first time I am in the top 10, I was there after the T20 World Cup (in 2020) but being able to get back into the top 10 shows how hard I have worked. I want to continue going and hopefully even make the number one spot.
“T20 is my favourite format. I enjoy it, and I love the competition and the challenging of each other that exists. Whenever I play, I make sure that it’s like a challenge, so I enjoy it.
“When I play T20 cricket, it reminds me of club cricket. In club cricket, we used to play T20s most of the time, so I used that momentum and carried it into my career where I always want to challenge myself and everyone, even in the nets with the batters,” the Hollywoodbets Dolphins cricketer said.
Considering her standout performances in Proteas Women colours in her young career so far, Mlaba received the Makhaya Ntini Power of Cricket accolade at the recent CSA Awards. This award serves to demonstrate the life-changing ability that cricket has in lives and communities.
The rapid rise of Mlaba, from only beginning to play cricket at the age of 14 after seeing her brother and sister take up the sport, to becoming amongst the very best spinners in the women’s game in the span of six years, is the perfect illustration of how the game has impacted her life.
At the end of the 2021 / 22 season, Mlaba was also handed a national contract as part of the Proteas Women’s latest contracted squad of players.
“At the end of the day, all that I have is through cricket,” she noted.
“I can say that cricket has allowed me to help fix up my family home, we are now living in a better and warmer home and that was through cricket. Even my place near the stadium, I have it through cricket.
“This contract has motivated me to continue working harder and know that all that I have been doing is why I will not stop now. It also shows that this is just the beginning, and it doesn’t end here.
“Getting a contract, it doesn’t stop there. This gives me the confidence that I can continue working and end up playing overseas in other international tournaments as well,” Mlaba added.
Mlaba and the team’s next big assignment will be the T20 World Cup showpiece being held at home across three venues in Cape Town, Gqeberha and Paarl, with a place in their maiden World Cup final the main target.
On a personal note, she hopes to play an integral role in the team and the competition on home soil.
“I want to be the leading wicket-taker and most importantly, help the team win,” Mlaba concluded.