CWC22 #4: Marizanne Kapp is a few emotions

Five years ago, an inconsolable Marizanne Kapp struggled to lift herself off the ground and the tears flowed freely after a close match against England in the World Cup semifinal. On Monday, in another World Cup, in another match against England, she again was on her haunches at the end of the game, but this time in prayer, this time in relief.

A minute before, even as Trisha Chetty hit the winning runs with three wickets and four balls to spare and her teammates invaded the field in celebration, Marizanne had stood at the boundary, fidgeting with her chain. Wracked. Contained. Before she dropped to the ground, head bent. Emotions still ran high, but this time – finally – a smile broke through as she was helped up off her knees and enveloped in the arms of her teammates.

All day, Marizanne had shown her class with bat, ball and on the field to spearhead South Africa’s victory. She’d earned a smile.    

Marizanne Kapp picked up career-best figures in the match against England at the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup 2022.
Marizanne Kapp picked up career-best figures in the match against England at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022. Photo: ICC

Five years ago, after an interview with Marizanne and her partner Dane van Niekerk, who is out injured for this World Cup, I had written that the two “are so expressive, you never want to look away”. And at the risk of overstatement, I had exhorted: “Whatever you do, don’t look away.”

And since then, I’ve taken my own advice. I can’t take my eyes away from Marizanne Kapp on a cricket field. I collect Marizanne moments with the enthusiasm of an ornithologist in the Amazon. It is my meditation, it is my exaltation.

Good sport makes you feel. Everything at times, and nothing, bereft at others. Marizanne is good sport. 

Her ritual is a reassurance. Watching her walk to the top of her mark, untying and retying her hair before every delivery in ritual, is the closest I will get to ASMR. Her smooth, rhythmic bowling action that follows is mediative. Breathe in, hold, breathe out.

Her wickets, then, are a release. On Monday, in her first spell, she was the fiery fast bowler that batters dream about hitting for six. The two early wickets, both the result of disciplined line and length, were accompanied by furrowed brows and cries of victory. In her final spell, she had turned into the thinking bowler, clinical with her slower balls. The wickets, which completed her first ODI five-for, were delivered with the quiet confidence of a master. And there was even a wry smile at the fifth.  

“I’ve played I think over 200 games for South Africa so I should be confident in my abilities,” Marizanne said after the match. “I think I just reached a point in my career where now I know what I’m capable of and, and I just have to back myself. And if I do that I usually perform well.”

If that sounds like an absence of humility, the assumption is misguided. If anything, Marizanne is self-critical to a fault. She felt her teammate Masabata Klaas was the best bowler on the day, and she apologised for not seeing through the chase.  

“I was a bit annoyed with myself,” she said. “I knew I probably should have finished that game. And I put a lot of pressure on the two batters that was in the middle.”  

Marizanne Kapp had a long chat with Trisha Chetty after her wicket at a crucial point in the chase.
Marizanne Kapp had a long chat with Trisha Chetty after her wicket at a crucial point in the chase.

If Marizanne’s bowling is an art, her batting is a lesson in perseverance. She knows her limitations, and makes up for it in smarts, picking the bowlers and balls to target. Against England, her 32 off 42 balls was crucial in the chase. The knock included another magic Marizanne moment: A six behind square off a Katherine Brunt full toss picked up around her hip. It seemed to turn the tone of the game.

“I just tried to be positive,” she explained that shot. “I struggled a bit against the left-arm spinner and I knew the pace bowlers I was going to try and take them on – I am strong through throughout that region and I just played the shot and it went for six and I’ll take it!”       

In recent months, even as she’s had all-round tournament-winning performances around the world, Marizanne, who makes no bones about being a family person, has found the long days in isolation sparking thoughts of retirement. She says she dislikes change, and when the retirement eventually happens, it might be too far a change for me too. So now, I double down. I’m more obsessed than ever. I won’t, I can’t look away.