Photo Credit: Gallo Images/Cricket South Africa
Having left cricket at 19 to pursue her Architectural Technology studies, recently-capped Proteas Women wicket-keeper Mieke de Ridder made a swift return to the sport in 2020, climbing her way up to the national team at the commencement of the 2023/24 season.
On the back of the historic professionalization of women’s domestic cricket in South Africa in the form of the CSA Professional Women’s Domestic League, the 27-year-old Six Gun Grill Garden Route Badgers star earned her first-ever Proteas call-up for the team’s trip to Pakistan between 01 – 14 September this year.
Recalling the moment, de Ridder expressed, “It was a huge honour and privilege for me to officially get that call-up. It is something that I worked towards since I was a young child and have always dreamt of. I really wanted to play for the Proteas and to know that the hard work finally paid off.”
In the T20 International (T20I) series against Pakistan, with South Africa trailing 2-0, de Ridder received her debut cap for the third and final encounter in Karachi, becoming T20I cap number 59 for the Proteas Women as the visitors went down fighting in the shorter format.
Reflecting on her debut, de Ridder said, “I remember the day very clearly. Normally you get the playing eleven a day before the match, but in this case, we were playing back-to-back games, so we only got told on the day of the match, which was actually a blessing in disguise because if I had known a day in advance, I would have been far more nervous and stressed.”
“I was overwhelmed with emotions at that point but I kept it all in, tried to stay calm and remembered that ‘You’ve trained really hard for this moment and just do what you’ve been working hard on’.
While not featuring in the One-Day Internationals against Pakistan, the Cradock-born wicket-keeper batter took over the 12th-player duties as South Africa claimed a 2-1 series victory, earning valuable ICC Women’s Championship 2022-25 points.
De Ridder continued her journey, participating in the 16-player squad that faced New Zealand in a white ball tour at home from 24 September to 15 October, as the host nation secured another split win in the 50-over encounters. Unfortunately, inclement weather led to the abandonment of the first three T20I matches of the series in East London, before the two sides moved to Benoni for a two-game playoff, with the White Ferns striking first in the fourth match.
After not taking an on-field role throughout the inbound tour, de Ridder received an unexpected entrance into the fifth T20I at Willowmoore Park after regular ‘keeper Sinalo Jafta went down with a shoulder injury in the 12th over, with the diminutive player helping the home side level the series with a thrilling 11-run triumph.
“For me, whether you’re in the playing 11 or not, it is very important to always contribute to the team in whichever way you possibly can. Whether that be carrying water or being the voice of the coach when running on and giving any advice or messages to the players,” the former Hoërskool DF Malherbe student noted.
“I feel it is very important to always be ready, anything can happen, like we saw in the fifth T20I against New Zealand with JJ (Jafta) getting injured. You must always prepare as if you would be playing so that if the opportunity does come, you are always ready.
“At the end of the day, it worked out nicely for me; getting an opportunity to keep round about nine overs and to just be present and be ready for when the opportunity came my way as we saw with that run-out opportunity, it was a pressure moment and when it came, I could contribute to the team.
At the start of the inaugural CSA Professional Women’s Domestic League, de Ridder will be hoping to help the Badgers continue their positive tenure in Division One after achieving a mid-table finish in their first year back in the Top 6 in the 2022/23 campaign.
“Heading back to the Badgers now, I am looking forward to training with the team and meeting up with them again for the domestic season. There are going to be a few new players putting their names into the hat with the structure being professional now. It’s going to be very challenging, with all games fairly contested, and that makes it very exciting.
“When I do play matches, I would love to be able to perform of course, that’s what we all want to do, but just to also enjoy it, to learn as much as we possibly can and to go and build confidence by scoring runs and spending time on the field behind the stumps,” de Ridder continued.
Although representing the Garden Route Bagders is the next assignment on the timetable for de Ridder, international cricket remains top of mind for the Nelson Mandela University alumn. The Proteas Women are set to take on sub-continent side Bangladesh in three T20Is and three ODIs at home between 03 – 23 December.
“My hopes for the Bangladesh tour would firstly be to make the squad, and if I do make the squad, I would like to get a playing opportunity but if not, then just to be the best I can be for the rest of the team, to contribute in any shape or form and always be ready, train hard and be ready for the opportunity if it does arise,” she concluded.