A freak slip while feeding her dogs was enough to rule South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk out of the World Cup.
Cricket star Van Niekerk, 29, "knew straight away" her hopes of playing in New Zealand were over as soon as she "heard a snap," which turned out to be an ankle fracture. The all-rounder was on a high after skippering the Oval Invincibles to the inaugural edition of The Hundred last year, where she was also top run-scorer.
“I do a lot of stupid things but probably that wasn’t one of the best decisions I could make so close to a World Cup,” she told The Guardian. “[Wife and team-mate] Marizanne always tells me I’m a loose head. It was an honest, freak accident. It was raining and I was on the wooden deck outside the house. I needed to go down to feed my dogs and I tried to climb down from the edge, and as I did that my feet gave way.
"I heard a snap, and I knew straight away that was my World Cup. I still hate myself to this day. If I’d just made one split-second decision different I could have been there and maybe helped my team, made a bit of a difference. That is life and that’s how I learn.”
The Proteas could have done with their captain at the World Cup, where they fell to eventual runners-up England in the semi-finals. Van Niekerk also sat out the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, where South Africa failed to get out of their group behind England and New Zealand.
She described herself as being her own "worst enemy sometimes" and believes she could have acted more pragmatically at the time of her most recent injury. "At that moment there were stairs just next to me but I wanted to climb down," added Van Niekerk. "When it rains do you do that? The truth is I needed to support my team in any way possible, and I wasn’t there. That’s why I’m upset with myself, because I wanted to be there.”
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The World Cup miss is the latest in a string of setbacks in Van Niekerk's recent history. She stabbed herself while cutting an avocado in 2020, then lost both of her grandparents in quick succession later that year.
The national team captain said she's "getting there" in her recovery after recently uploading footage of her bowling again. “Skill-wise I’m happy, I’m content with where I am,” she added.
Van Niekerk may have dealt with her fair share of misery in recent years but has time on her side to make a run at the next World Cup in India. She'll take more care providing for her pooches until then.
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