Marizanne Kapp and others

Marizanne Kapp (3rd from right) celebrates a wicket with her team-mates. © Cricket South Africa

Is it fair?

When Marizanne Kapp walked in to bat for South Africa in the second ODI, Lara Goodall had just been dismissed for a slow 44-ball 26. Before that Sune Luus had walked back for a painstaking 32 that took 71 balls coming. The most fluent that someone had looked in the innings till then was Laura Wolvaardt with a 34-ball 27. Sure Lizelle Lee had a superior strike rate of 94, but she had conjured up 29 dots and that meant her 50-ball 47 didn’t ‘look’ as swift as it turned out.

But Kapp. This is about her. The inaugural Black Day ODI was about her, even though it was Shabnim Ismail’s 100th for South Africa. It was as if the Protea allrounder walked out to bat on a different track to the others. For when the top-order was batting, it looked to be yet another turner – akin to the one that was on show in the first ODI, where the hosts crawled to a score of 200 that was just enough. Just. But Kapp made it seem like a batting paradise.

Is it fair for Kapp to be given an easier pitch to bat on?

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On her third ball, Kapp found the fence – a sweetly-timed whip past long on off Diana Baig, who’d dismissed Goodall. A couple of overs later, she was happy to use her feet and convert a full delivery off an economical Nida Dar into a full toss and pierce the gap at cow-corner. Kapp owned the arc between square leg and long on, using her reach to good effect against spinners to play the sweep or pull as well as the flick and whip.

Marizanne Kapp watches the white orb carefully. © Cricket South Africa

Kapp was in the contest throughout. When she was not punishing the Pakistan bowlers and making fielders run, chase and fetch the ball, she was seen animatedly telling Nadine de Klerk the way to go about with her batting. She was egging the young allrounder on to rotate strike, when de Klerk played a few dots, and encouraged her to take the aerial route against the spinners. That rubbed off on de Klerk when she hit successive fours off Fatima Sana in the 48th.

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But again, it’s about Kapp, who was on 42 off 38 at that point. On the last two balls of the penultimate over, she managed to beat long-on to her right twice to bring up ninth ODI half century in just 41 balls. What’s more, despite Baig having one over up her sleeve, left-arm spinner Nashra Sandhu was given the last over and Kapp merrily hit a six and three fours off the last four balls in the over to finish unbeaten on 68 off just 45 balls.

Is it fair for Kapp to be so good against seam that she’s fed spin at the death?

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Kapp ended up striking at 151.11 and also took South Africa past 250, which eventually proved enough. What’s more, she also sent back Pakistan’s openers Muneeba Ali and Nahida Khan inside the first four overs, before dismissing Sidra Nawaz in the middle phases to return with three for 44 with the ball.

She seems to have an inherent ability to make tough situations look easier. In the third ODI against India in 2019 in Vadodara, South Africa were chasing a paltry 147 for a win. The pitch wasn’t conducive to stroke-play and graft was the need of the hour. She admitted later to be surprised by how the track behaved, even though it looked quite flat.

After a scintillating three for 20 with the ball, Kapp walked in with South Africa five down for 63 and managed to keep them on course. A contentious LBW call drew curtains to her 43-ball 29, but it was a knock that pressed home the value that the allrounder brings to any unit she walks into, leave alone South Africa. This was a couple of games after she scored her eighth ODI fifty and was the only shining star in the Protea line-up in the first game of that tour.

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Is it fair for Kapp to be thrust into such situations time and again?

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“I didn’t know Kapp can bat so well,” went a voice around me during the match on Saturday (January 23). It’s tough being an allrounder, isn’t it? That’s because it’s just the first step of a further bifurcation – batting-allrounder or bowling-allrounder. The scrutiny only increases when someone by the name Jacques Kallis in men’s cricket came from the same part of the world, given what his achievements did to the tag of an ‘allrounder’. But who exactly is Kapp? An allrounder who chips in with the bat when others fall and one, who stands tall with the ball when others don’t.

It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that the matches Kapp plays aren’t regularly shown, re-streamed and glorified. It isn’t fair that most of her heroics have been witnessed by only a few, mostly at the respective venues. It isn’t fair that not much is written about her like it is about the likes of Ellyse Perry and others. It isn’t fair that Kapp’s numbers don’t reflect what she has been doing for a long, long time.

And hence, it’s only fair that she’s one of five women to have made ten scores of fifty or more as well as picked more than one hundred wickets in ODIs.

Justice, poetically delivered.