A presence at the crease – batting or bowling – that can be intimidating but a personality warm like few others, Marizanne Kapp is a premier all-rounder who is treasured not just in South Africa but throughout the international cricketing circuit. With 2220 runs and 146 wickets in ODIs, 1046 runs in 66 wickets in T20I cricket, Kapp’s numbers speak for herself. And when you throw in her attitude, professionalism and a few warm hugs... she is a complete asset that teams dream of.

In eight innings during the World Cup in 2022, Kapp scored 203 runs at an average of 40.60 at a strike rate of 92.27. She picked up 12 wickets with a bowling average 26.25 and a miserly economy rate of 4.73. She also picked up a five-wicket haul against England during the World Cup and was involved in several rescue acts for South Africa in difficult situations.

‘The fire that she has...’: The many sides of Marizanne Kapp, through the eyes of Dane van Niekerk

In an interview with Scroll.in, Kapp opened up about her World Cup campaign, her ultimate goal as a professional, what can be done in order to promote the women’s game, and her involvement in the FairBreak Invitational tournament where she is part of The Falcons.

Excerpts from the interview:

You’re coming off a stunning World Cup campaign. It was good for South Africa but especially you. You had some memorable batting cameos, and some memorable bowling spells, including a five-for. What was your favourite moment and could you talk us through that?

The cameo against New Zealand was my favourite. It was a lot pressure. I’m glad it went my way and my team’s way. It’s funny actually to put it in words because we were cruising in that game with Wolvie (Laura Wolvaardt) and Sune Luus having quite a big partnership in there and having a few wickets in hand. But again, that’s cricket and it can change with even one ball. Then, in the last ten overs, we needed about sixty runs and we took it as deep as possible.

I got a bit nervous when Chloe (Tryon) and Trisha (Chetty) went out. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m stuck with the bowlers now.’ So for me, it was just about taking charge because I knew I was the batter and specifically, the set batter as well. I knew if I can keep it within eight runs an over, being the only batter in there, I could take my team over the line.

I knew it was going to be tough but luckily, my experience helped me out there. Because in the past, a lot of us would almost go (for the shots) too soon because you would think there’s 60 runs in the last ten overs but the big thing that I’ve learnt over the past few seasons is that you’ve actually got a lot more time than you think and that’s something I tried to aim for throughout the World Cup.

But if you take it as deep as possible, even if you need ten or fifteen runs off the last over, anything could happen. I knew the last over, we needed six runs so the plan was always to try and get the boundary off the first two balls. I was sure that Khaka was capable of getting a single because I know she can hold a bat and luckily, it went our way in the end.

Dane (van Niekerk), in an interview with us, mentioned that you just took to international cricket like it was nothing, like you belonged. Did you feel that way about yourself too?

Definitely not. When I was a bit younger, I would perform at the provincial level but I was a bit afraid of the international level. When I first got into the SA team, I carried drinks on and off as it was always between myself and Dane (van Niekerk), depending on who would play on the day. In my first game, it was memorable. The South African team got kicked out of the World Cup so they gave me a chance to play.

And then obviously, having not played the World Cup, you kind of just get used to being in and not expecting to play so I wasn’t too happy with my debut but for me it’s not always how you start but how you end. So I’m happy with the way things are going now. I wouldn’t say it was easy transitioning from provincial to international cricket.

She also called you a thorough, thorough professional. Over a decade in the international arena, what has been the highlight for you professionally and how has it changed for you over the years?

I think the biggest highlight for me is nothing specific but rather the way women’s cricket has grown, not only in my own country but all over the world. Growing up, I didn’t even know there was international women’s cricket, I didn’t know we had the SA Women’s cricket team. And now, if you ask any youngster, especially a girl participating in women’s cricket, they know there are international teams and it’s all over the television now so I think, no innings or specific campaign has been my highlight, it is rather the fact that women’s cricket has grown the way it has to how it is at the moment.

And, what is your ultimate goal - both professionally and personally?

Ultimately, it will still be to win the World Cup. If someone can achieve that... especially the way we kind of ‘found’ it in South Africa. It wasn’t really on the map so to be able to play for the South African team and win a World Cup. We haven’t won one at this stage so for a women’s team to win that will be the ultimate goal for me.

You also have a penchant to perform well especially against big teams like England, New Zealand, Australia. We saw that at the World Cup. What’s on your mind in these high pressure games?

I don’t think it’s a specific team that I perform well against. I think it’s just the fact that you kind of know you have to bring your A-game otherwise you are going to get hit or things are going to end badly for you. But I’m so used to playing in the same team as these girls in the leagues over the years now.

They’ve definitely helped and are a big factor to get to know certain players. It obviously makes it tough as well because they know you so much better and they know what you’re going to do but I think it’s just that cricket has always been my first love and I’m someone – it’s a negative and positive thing both – but I don’t do things if I can’t do it. I don’t see the point of playing cricket if you don’t want to be the best at what you do. So that’s always something that I try and do; be the best version of myself.

What does playing in an event like FairBreak Invitational Tournament mean for you and women’s cricket in general?

FairBreak I think, is the first of its kind. I’m really excited because you don’t know what to expect. I remember growing up when I first made the South African team, we didn’t have a lot of games against Australia, England or New Zealand because our team was simply not strong enough. I always thought that there were many individual players good enough to play against such teams.

I think it’s pretty much the same with the Associate teams. Just because the team is maybe still struggling as a whole to reach a certain level doesn’t mean that they aren’t playing great as individuals, so I am really excited to see what these girls can do.

I found out that there are thirteen different nationalities that are going to play in my team alone. So I’m excited to see the level of cricket that is going to be played here. There’s countries that I didn’t even know had women’s cricket teams so it’s so good for the game and the women in the game.

It’s very cool that there are countries like Brazil and the Phillipines being represented at FairBreak. What else do you think can be done in order to promote the game?

I think it’s just more cricket. Because again, if I look at the South African side, we had maybe two tours a year and as soon as we started playing more cricket even if it was against the relatively weaker teams, just the fact that we played more cricket helped us.

And then obviously, you have to give contracts to national teams. You can’t expect the national teams to compete if it’s truly missing in the women’s game otherwise. That’s why, Australia is the No. 1 team because they have all these resources and money being put into them consistently over the years.

So, if we all can have more of that, you will see a lot more teams competing. It’s kind of unfair at the moment because a lot of teams have a lot more resources, so how do you expect teams to compete with the Australias and the Englands if everyone doesn’t start on the same level?