I just changed the entire way I train, the way I live my life to succeed: Lara Goodall

Lara Goodall in action © Getty Images

Lara Goodall is a young player coming from a domestic system that has its flaws. It’s natural for a South Africa player to take time to adjust to the demands of international cricket as compared to the players from Australia, England, or even India.

Goodall had to choose between the love for two sports – football and cricket – and had to let go off her dream of playing for Banyana Banyana. She had a tough initiation to cricket at the international level as a 20-year-old and was eventually dropped from the squad in 2019.

The southpaw made a comeback to the South Africa side during the 2020 India tour and has been a regular presence since then. But it wasn’t easy; Goodall had to re-jig her technique – ‘I tore my technique apart’ are her exact words, work on her fitness and find new ways to counter spin bowling.

Now with the retirement of Lizelle Lee and the absence of a few regulars for various reasons, Goodall is once again thrown into the deep end of the pool and will be key for South Africa if they have to follow up their performances in the last two global events. Ahead of the Commonwealth Games, the elegant batter talked to Women’s CricZone about the difficulties she faced at the start of her career, her coach Rushdi Jappie, and working like a maniac on her technique and fitness.

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Q: Let’s cricle back to the beginning. How did you start playing cricket?

I have an older brother and he just showed me the ropes – just showed me how to hit the ball, how to catch the ball or how to bowl the ball. I just started in the streets and then went to school and somehow got into the boys team. I said, I can kind of play this game. I got into the boys team and I just played throughout school, got involved in the Western Province structure back home in Cape Town. And it kind of just started from there.

Lara Goodall plays a reverse sweep against Ireland © Getty Images

I actually played football for quite a while as well. A lot of people thought that, that was going to be the sport and I would be playing for Banyana Banyana. But that came to a stage where I had to choose between the two and I chose cricket. And I don’t regret that that decision for one minute. I absolutely love the game as a football fan as well. So I watch a lot of football, but I love that I get to play cricket for a living.

Q: How was it making your international debut for South Africa in 2016?

It was actually quite a challenging time. Because at the time I don’t think, within myself, I was actually quite ready for the debut. But it came along and I kind of made the most of what happened when I was at that age.

When I got out of the national team, I just went back and worked insanely hard. I think I said it in one of my other interviews as well. We kind of just went back, tore my technique apart and came up with the plans. I just changed the entire way I train, the way I live my life. I made very big changes and luckily they paid off. Now I’m back in the side and consistently in the South African team.

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Q: You talked about ‘ripping apart your technique’. How much of an influence did your coach Rushdi Jappie have on it?

I think a massive one. He and I have been working back home together for quite a while, for quite a few years actually. We just went back and analysed everything and thought ‘Okay, look! How am I going to take all this potential and mould it into something that can last long and (help me) to stay in the South Africa side for long enough ?’

South Africa

Lara Goodall in action © Getty Images

I think we found a recipe. We still work very hard. After this tour. when I go back home, I will take a bit of time off. But we are back in it (after that), kind of trying to transform my game again. We’ll go back and we’ll work on a lot of things. He’s been such a big influence on the way I go about batting in general. I can only be thankful for him. I know that there’s still a lot of hard work to go. I haven’t hit my prime yet, hopefully. So hopefully many more runs.

Q: You also seem to have put in a lot of work on your fitness. So what are the specific things you have been working on in terms of your fitness?

I just started being consistent with my fitness. I started running twice as much as I used to. Watching what I put into my body, drinking lots and lots of water, spending a lot of time in the gym. Even now on tour, I’m always in the gym, waking up early every other morning to go for a run just so I can maintain that that fitness level.

Q: You were dropped from the squad the after the India tour in 2019. Poetically, your turnaround also happened when you visited India again in 2021. So how was that?

During the lockdown, I worked on my technique and put in hours in the gym and in the nets. When the India tour came around, we had a Pakistan series just before that where I got a lot of starts and I thought ‘something good is going to come because I have been working insanely hard, hitting the ball well.’

I went into India with a lot of confidence and luckily it paid off. I’ve had quite a bit of success against India individually; I always knew that I could make the best of my technique. What I did was I learned how to play spin insanely well. I knew going to India, playing against Pakistan, they were going to throw a lot of spin at me. I went back and just remodeled my game against spin and it’s been working for me and hopefully it’ll work for me more in the future.

Q: How do you see the inclusion of cricket in the Commonwealth Games helping the growth of the women’s game?

Women’s cricket has been able to stand on its own now for quite a while. I mean, this World Cup (World Cup 2022 in New Zealand) showed you there were such amazing, high scoring games and exciting close games. We had quite a nail biter against India and we’ve always had nail biters against India in the past.

It’s nice for the growth of the game and will expose the game to girls or people who watch other sports that are already in the Commonwealth Games. So it’s kind of just showing cricket off to the rest of the world as well. I think it’s a massive step forward, especially for the women’s game. And like I said, everyone’s just excited to get going.

Q: Unlike the World Cup, Commonwealth Games gives you three opportunities to have a medal. How much of an incentive is that and what are the goals for South Africa?

We feel we are a very good side, so we always want to go for the win. We are going for Gold and not just to compete and make up the numbers. We know it will be difficult because there are some strong sides in the tournament. But we’ve shown that on our day we can beat absolutely anyone.

And the girls are excited and everyone is happy to be part of something new for the game of cricket. We will always strive for the best. We, as a team, have insanely high standards and our coaching staff expects a lot of us and we expect a lot of ourselves. So we’ll definitely be going for the win.