Tuesday, June 25, 2024

ICC: Mlaba – Dancing’s loss, cricket’s gain

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Photo Credit: Cricket South Africa / Getty Images

KwaMashu is a South African township that is 12 kilometres north of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.

It is famous for its love of the arts, particularly folk dancing commonly known as pantsula, and the unearthing of talented actors and actresses such as Henry Cele of Shaka Zulu fame and Leleti Khumalo, who played the lead in the award-winning movie Sarafina, that depicted the 1976 Anti-Apartheid student uprisings in South Africa.

Nonkululeko Mlaba hails from KwaMashu and the Proteas left-arm spinner could also easily have been lost to the arts for she enjoyed traditional dancing prior to moving to Ntuzuma as a teenager. 

It was only in Ntuzuma – just five kilometres away but worlds apart from KwaMashu – that Mlaba ditched her dancing feet for bowling shoes as her love for the game of cricket began to grow.

It was also the beginning of a complete transformation of life for the ICC’s No 2-ranked T20 Women’s bowler. 

“I do love dancing and definitely dance a lot in my free time,” Mlaba said. “But at the end of the day, all that I have is through cricket. 

“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.”

Mlaba, still only 22, has developed into an integral part of the Proteas’ Women’s team and their quest for ICC Women’s T20 World Cup glory in South Africa. 

Affectionately known as “Lefty” to her teammates, she shrugged off a disappointing performance in the tournament opening game against Sri Lanka at Newlands by bouncing back superbly with figures of three for 10 in the crushing 65-run victory over New Zealand at Boland Park in Paarl on Monday evening. 

Mlaba’s performance started with a wicket off her second ball as she returned to open the bowling, which certainly reignited the fire in the Proteas’ T20 World Cup campaign.

“She works really hard. She’s from my hometown, so I work a lot with her when we’re home. She bowls a lot. She’s just trying to work on the game as much as she can. I love the fire that’s burning inside of her,” Proteas all-rounder and fellow left-arm spinner Chloe Tryon said. 

“I like how she sets the tone with the ball as well. I feel like as a unit, we really thrive off that, and the bowlers really thrive off that. I’m happy to see that she’s doing so well. I can’t wait to see how she does in the next game after this. I’m really excited to see her. She’s 22 years old, a young girl. It’s really nice to see her blossoming in front of me.”

Tryon and the rest of the Proteas face Australia in a mouth-watering clash in Gqeberha on Saturday and they will be hoping to dance to the tunes of the St George’s Park band every time Mlaba takes an Aussie wicket. 

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