Swart hits – and breaks – boundaries

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

SHANIA-LEE Swart scored an undefeated 160 off 86 balls for Mpumalanga against Easterns in a T20 in the national under-19 week in Pretoria on Monday.

Bloody well played, young woman.

But there’s more. Mpumalanga made 169/8, and those nine runs Swart did not score were all extras.

You read that right – while she was hitting 18 fours and 12 sixes no-one else who batted scored a single.

There’s still more. In a 50-over match last Friday she made 289 off 182 out of a total of 352.

And she’s no stranger to big hitting. Now 17, she was 13 when she played her first season for the Mpumalanga under-19 side, and hammered an innings of 127 to celebrate the lucky number.

That kind of batting gets the phone ringing …

“Ja, it’s been ringing,” Baltus Swart, her father, said on Friday having pulled over to the side of the road in George, where the Witbank family are holidaying.

Did she see a future for herself in cricket?

“We’re not sure. She just loves the sport.”

Hang on – could we ask her ourselves, please?

“Yes, she’s right here,” Swart said as he passed the phone to the back seat.

“Hy wil met jou praat (he wants to speak to you),” he told his daughter.

“Wie’s dit (who is it),” she asked.

“Se net hallo (just say hello),” he said.

She did: “Hallo?”

What did it take to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs?

“There’s a lot of concentration involved,” she said. “I have to keep strike and not let more wickets fall.”

Rudyard Kipling wrote a version of the line above that quote in his poem, “If …”, which ends with, “Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it/And – which is more – you’ll be a man my son!”

Women’s cricket was a novelty when Kipling’s poem was published in 1910, and only in recent years have sincere efforts been made to grow the game beyond its male bastions.

Even so, the game has managed to give Swart an ambition – to play for South Africa’s senior team – and a hero in England wicketkeeper-batsman (oddly, they’re not called batswomen) Sarah Taylor.

“I’ve just looked up to her since I was little,” Swart said.

Was the fact that they shared a gender important in her choice of idol?

“No.”

She could have picked a man. She chose a woman. Now that’s progress.

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