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Nadine de Klerk  bowls during the  Test match against  Australia  in Perth in February.
Image: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Mark Etheridge

Rayton is a tiny town east of Pretoria, started by prospectors digging for diamonds many years ago.

It was this town where Proteas cricket all-rounder Nadine de Klerk’s talents were unearthed.

And this is a woman who has also learnt to dig deep in her sporting career. After making her national debut as a 17-year-old in 2017, it was as recently as 2022 when she found herself frozen out in the cold — losing not only her Women’s Big Bash League spot with the Brisbane Heat but also her national contract with the Protea’s women’s side.

But the feisty red-head is not one for taking things lying down.

“I really felt down and out, lost my love for the game, things were financially challenging… should I look for a job and figure things out away from cricket? But then I thought: I had age on my side as I was only 22.

“I got a bad Achilles tendon injury and was out for  three to four months at home doing rehab which, in hindsight, maybe wasn’t a bad thing.”

A keen javeliner who earned a sports scholarship to Hoërskool Waterkloof, she says a turning point  came when she got a call up for the England tour later in 2022.

“We also had a few retirements and the more games you play for the Proteas, you more you get rewarded, so at the end of 2022 I got an upgraded national contract and from the beginning of 2023 things really started looking up. I had a decent World Cup on home turf, got picked up by The Blaze in the English Hundred Series and then later for the Oval Invincibles.”

It wasn’t all good news for De Klerk though. “I lost my gran [the rock of my family] just before the Bangladesh game in the 2023 World Cup, which was a big blow. She was one of my biggest supporters and constantly reminded me even in my lowest moments that I was always loved, it didn’t matter whether I was playing cricket or not.”

More recently De Klerk’s star is still on the rise. “We went to Australia earlier this year and I did pretty well and then I got a great chance to play in the Women’s Premier League T20 in India for the Royal Challengers Bangalore as a replacement player.

“I only got to play one game but we won the competition which was such a special moment.”

She says the Indian experience is a whole new ball game. “Wow, there’s really not a better place to play cricket. OK, I battle a bit with all the spicy food and I’m really not a fan of vegetables, but from a cricketing point of view it’s absolutely mindblowing.”

De Klerk, who turned 24 earlier this year, is unashamedly a home-body, who likes nothing better than spending precious time with her family around a braai, next to the pool, with a relaxing drink (not bat) in hand and laughter in the air.

But she didn’t get too much of that this week, after having arrived back from India on Tuesday and then joining up with the Proteas for their six-game home series against Sri Lanka which starts in Benoni on March 27.

Before that though she still had some time to share some of her insights into the rapidly growing world of women’s cricket.

“So, so much has changed… we only became pro in 2017 with contracts etc, our games are now getting regular live television coverage, especially after the T20 Women’s World Cup here in SA.”

When it comes to tough opponents she says the toughest bowler she’s faced is England’s Sophie Ecclestone. “She’s just an absolute star, one of the best ever.

“And then batting wise it’s [another English player] Natt Sciver. She’s just so good all around the ground and is very hard to set fields to.”

Growing up she was a huge fan of fellow all-rounder Jacques Kallis. they don’t come more consistent than the man they called “King Kallis” and that’s what she’s looking for in her own game.

“That’s what I want and I’m working hard with bat and ball. One-day cricket is about being patient and backing yourself to come good but in the T20 game power-hitting is where it’s going and when it’s bowling it’s all about coming down to getting more variations, good yorkers and mixing up your pace.”

A mix of seriousness and light-heartedness is what makes sports tick and when it comes to the fun side she says the Proteas certainly have a good time.

“I laugh a lot in the SA side. She’s retired now but honestly [the world’s fastest women’s bowler] Shabnim Ismail is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.”

Not many people would guess this, but the farm girl from Rayton likes relaxing to the music of rap artist NF.

Two of his biggest hits are Let you Down and When I Grow Up.

One gets the sense that when it comes do De Klerk, she’ll never let family or team down… and nor does it seem like she really wants to grow up any time soon! 

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