Photo Credit: Raymond Herbst
Momentum Proteas fast bowler, Ayabonga Khaka is looking forward to the special experience of representing her country on the global stage, at home and in front of her loved ones when the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 kicks off in Cape Town, Paarl, and Gqeberha in February next year.
Born in the township of Ann Shaw in Middledrift in the Eastern Cape, the 30-year-old will only be a three hour’s drive away from her birthplace when South Africa take on Australia in their crucial Group A match at St George’s Park in Gqeberha on 18 February.
Although she has made Johannesburg her home over the last decade while donning the colours of the DP World Lions, playing so close to her roots will be uniquely important for Khaka, despite her unfamiliarity of the stadium itself.
“It’s going to be nice for me to play at home,” the seamer said. “I have played this side for a long time, but Johannesburg is my home now. I am looking forward to the challenge. I had never been in PE (Port Elizabeth), I have never played there, especially at the ground that we will be playing on, but I am looking forward to it and I know it is a challenging ground.
“It is a windy place, but I am looking forward to going there and seeing what I can execute,” she added.
Overall, Khaka is also just thrilled to finally play a World Cup in her own backyard after having already represented the Proteas in two 50-over World Cups and two T20 World Cups in her career.
“All the World Cups that I have played in have been away. It is always good to play on home soil,” Khaka continued.
“We know the conditions and we just need to go there and execute as a team. I am looking forward to the tournament,” she said.
In a calendar year where Khaka has taken a career-high 27 wickets in One-Day Internationals (ODI), to go along with the five T20 International (T20I) wickets, as South Africa achieved a World Cup semi-final in New Zealand and a ODI and T20I series win over Ireland, the silent but deadly operator was named the Cricket South Africa Player of the Year and Player’s Player of the Year.
“It’s been a great year, with ups and downs,” Khaka commented.
“It’s been tough, especially the last few months. The series against England was tough, but you learn a lot from those situations.
“It was great to come back home and win the awards that I won. To be honest, it just motivates me.
Especially when your teammates see what you can do. I am just happy,” she added.
When asked about the next phase of her career and how she aims to continue getting better, Khaka gave a sneak peek into her self-reflective and team-first nature that has paved the way for recent success.
“There is a lot that I want to improve as a person,” the seamer noted. “For me it is just to get better each and every time, to try and add skills as well, on top of my skill. I am looking forward to seeing what I can bring in the next season.
“I don’t think I plan a lot. For me, as long as the team is moving in the right direction and I am contributing to the team, I know what my role is for the team.
“What is important for me is as long as I keep on doing good for the team, that is what is right for me,” she said.