In 2011, Tazmin Brits was involved in a horrific car accident which left her gravely injured and losing the will to live.
Her dream of taking part in the London Olympics as a javelin thrower was also shattered as she lay in a hospital bed for three months.
“I had to teach myself to pull up to put the pan under me to pee, or get off the bed to get onto a commode. I had to teach myself to walk,” she told the BBC in an interview.
The near-fatal crash happened at Potchefstroom, where Brits had been celebrating her qualification for the Games.
A brief lapse in concentration meant she lost control and was flung out of her car.
She suffered a broken pelvis and hip and punctured bladder. She required multiple painful surgeries.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk again, I wouldn’t be able to do sports again,” she told womenscriczone.com in 2019.
She added: “Along with my dream went all my sponsorships and will to live.
“I attempted to end my life on more than one occasion. I felt lost and had no direction.”
A world junior champion in javelin in 2007, Brits was rescued by cricket and on Sunday she will attempt to spark South Africa to victory over hot favourites Australia in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final.
Cut to 2023, on a Friday in Capetown, Brits was waiting to wake up from a dream as she reflected on her player-of-the-match performance in South Africa’s enthralling six-run semi-final win over England.
The opener crashed 68 runs from 55 balls as she combined with Laura Wolvaardt in a 96-run stand for the first wicket of the semi-final, with Marizanne Kapp powering South Africa to 164 for four with 27 runs from 13 balls.
England responded in kind reaching 55 runs by the end of the powerplay, but crucially losing two wickets thanks to two catches from Brits, including a diving one to dismiss Alice Capsey for a duck.
Natalie Sciver-Brunt struggled initially in her innings but by the time she departed for 40 runs from 34 balls, her wicket felt crucially important.
Three wickets in Ayabonga Khaka’s final over decimated England’s chases with Shabnim Ismail’s dimissal of Heather Knight at the death sealing the win and a first World Cup final for a South African cricket team.
“I still can’t believe it to be honest with you,” Brits, who took four catches in total, said. “It feels like I’m still going to need to wake up.
“I don’t know how the catches happened. My legs were so tired after the batting, I just reacted and it stuck.
“Once they started moving me everywhere, the ball kept following me and they actually said ‘We should maybe throw you the ball to bowl’, and I don’t bowl at all!
“The catches came and they stuck and today was my day and I’m glad I could take it.”
It is a remarkable turnaround for Brits who missed out on a place competing in javelin at the London 2012 Olympics after the car crash, and had also considered quitting cricket as recently as last year.
She now hopes she and the Proteas can inspire the nation when they take to the field at Newlands on Sunday to take on the holders Australia in the final.
She added: “Maybe I might be an inspiration to many young girls. I always try to remain a human first before I am a cricketer, so I think that maybe it just gave me the light to change my direction and help people out.
“I think we are definitely inspiring the younger generation a lot of times in our country. We have a lot of different races and cultures and all of those things.
“So, to actually be able to make cricket a career and to show what it’s about, especially in the women’s game, I definitely think this was a massive change.
“I think for the first time, us as women can actually stick up our hand and we actually have the girls rooting for us.”
England captain Knight never lost hope in her side as they took South Africa to the wire, even as she lost her partner Nat Sciver-Brunt with England needing 34 from 24 balls.
She said: “I still believed we were going to win, I think mine and Nat’s partnership was going quite well.
“The rate was about nine or 10 and it felt very chaseable. We talked about getting one boundary an over and trying to pick up off the rest and it still felt very manageable.
“But obviously, we lost those wickets trying to find those boundaries. I still believed, even when I needed to hit two sixes. But credit to South Africa, I think they bowled brilliantly.”
England looked like a team reborn under new head coach Jon Lewis during the tournament and despite falling short in the semi-final, Knight has backed their new aggressive strategy.
“It has been a brilliant tournament, but this result won’t define us as a group,” she added. “The way we’ve been playing and progressing has certainly been a mentality shift in how we want to do things.
“The way we’ve played has certainly been entertaining, and it’s the way forward to being successful as well.
“We’re building something nicely, it obviously hasn’t quite come off today, unfortunately, but the future looks bright.”
With inputs from AFP and ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020 via Online Media Zone.