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New Proteas skipper Laura Wolvaardt. Picture: JAN KRUGER/GETTY IMAGES
New Proteas skipper Laura Wolvaardt. Picture: JAN KRUGER/GETTY IMAGES

The Proteas women will begin the Laura Wolvaardt era in her absence when they face Bangladesh in Benoni on Sunday.

Having been confirmed as the national team’s full-time captain, Wolvaardt will miss at least the opening match of the three-match T20 series with Bangladesh due to commitments in Australia.

Her team in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), the Adelaide Strikers, qualified for the final of that tournament, and Wolvaardt is set to open the batting on Saturday.

She will not be back in SA in time for Sunday’s first T20, and her status for the remainder of the series will be assessed once she arrives on Monday or Tuesday. A captain for Sunday, and possibly the remainder of the T20 series, will be named later this week. Former captain Suné Luus is in the squad, but it is unlikely to be her.

She has been clear about wanting to move her career forward without the added responsibility of the captaincy, which may mean another new stand-in leader, with Sinalo Jafta or Anneke Bosch the favourites.

But even their temporary appointment should not knock the new era off kilter. There is at least some clarity from Cricket SA after a messy few months in which Wolvaardt and the senior players shouldered plenty of burden in Pakistan and then in the home series against New Zealand.

A new head coach is expected to be announced soon to oversee the team’s preparations for the tour to Australia, which starts at the end of January.

There will also be greater purpose over the direction of the team in the new year. Wolvaardt, having served her assessment period in Pakistan and then against New Zealand, will be clearer about how she wants to lead the team.

She has said was pleased with how that assessment period unfolded, especially how she was able to balance the leadership role with her batting output. Her unbeaten 124 in the second ODI against New Zealand offered the clearest indication for Wolvaardt that she would be able to perform as the team’s best batter while captain.

She will want to properly stamp her authority on the team, and, in conjunction with the new head coach, create a style of play more in keeping with the trends set by the all-conquering Australians.

That team’s aggression with the bat was the hallmark of the twin triumphs in the past two ICC events — the 2022 ODI World Cup and the 2023 T20 World Cup — and England and India are following that example.

Wolvaardt’s experience from the WBBL, the Hundred in England and her brief stint in the Women’s Premier League in India earlier in 2023 will have made her aware of the rapid changes the women’s game is undergoing.

SA have taken significant steps in the past decade as their ICC results illustrate, including this year’s memorable run to the final of the T20 World Cup in Cape Town.

But Wolvaardt will know that her team risks stagnating unless the new, younger players are not quickly brought up to speed on the modern game. 

The T20s against Bangladesh do not hold as much importance as the ODIs, which follow later in December. This part of the Women’s Championship competition will determine the automatic qualifiers for the 2025 World Cup.

The selectors took the opportunity to blood a few youngsters such as Annerie Dercksen, Mieke de Ridder, Ayanda Hlubi and Eliz-Mari Marx for the T20s, while senior players such as Marizanne Kapp, Chloe Tryon, Ayabonga Khaka and Nadine de Klerk get an extended break or nurse injury niggles.

While Wolvaardt may be absent, and the new coach weeks away from starting the job, the foundation for the new era will be created in that series.

The Proteas squad for T20 series against Bangladesh are: Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits, Annerie Dercksen, Mieke de Ridder, Lara Goodall, Ayanda Hlubi, Sinalo Jafta, Masabata Klaas, Suné Luus, Eliz-Mari Marx, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Tumi Sekhukhune, Nondumiso Shangase, Delmi Tucker, Laura Wolvaardt (capt).

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