After taking over the helm of Namibia’s women’s cricket team about three months ago, head gaffer Francois van der Merwe has activated a formidable development structure for the country’s female cricketers.
This is the case if last Saturday’s match between his invitational team that beat the Windhoek Afrikaans Privaat Skool (WAP) U/15 boys is anything to go by. The game formed part of Van der Merwe’s planned rigorous training ahead of a national tournament set for next month.
This tournament will culminate in the final selection of a team that will host Zimbabwe in January 2021, which will see the teams facing off in four T20 internationals and three 50-over as well as one day internationals, all to be played at Walvis Bay starting 11 until 20 January 2021.
Last weekend, the ladies put up a stellar performance scoring more than one run per ball resulting in the boys being bowled out for less than 100. The young men’s side was sent packing in a game that was characterised by toe-crushers from the national team’s quick bowlers, leaving them jamming their bats in the ground defensively, often to no avail.
Cricket Namibia’s proven formula has illuminated a progressive path for women’s cricket in the country through focused effort, but according to Van der Merwe, this is just the beginning and the formulation of a trophy-winning side is a work in progress.
“Winning against Zimbabwe is important to us and we intend to field our best team on match day. So, preparation is crucial. We only have about 50 percent of the team here,” said the coach.
Referring to the upcoming selection for the local tournament, Van der Merwe revealed that the players will test their mettle against one another in about 25 matches, to be played over a period of a week.
“We are looking at about nine games a day,” the 44-year-old Van der Merwe said. The coach revealed that after the selection process is done and dusted, the players will go into a three-week camp during which he will work on fortifying their batting and bowling prowess.
The coach is not a novice in cricket circles. Born in South Africa, Van der Merwe represented the North West Province at all cricket levels before making his List A cricket debut in 1996 and First Class debut in 2000 for the North West Dragons.
He also played as a professional cricketer for various club leagues in the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2009. The coach is also no stranger to women cricket, having served as head coach for the North West Dragons women’s team following his appointment in 2011. In 2012, he obtained his Cricket South Africa Level 3 certificate.
All-rounder Arrasta Diergaardt maintained that the morale within the team is high as all players are motivated and determined to deliver their best for the remainder of this year, going into what is billed to be a busy 2021.
“We are not under pressure at all. We are just working on our skills and fitness levels. We have been playing together for quite a while now, so we are well acquainted with one another,” Diergaardt said.
She further hinted that once drafted none of the players will take the Zimbabwean clash lightly. “Zimbabwe is our biggest rival in Africa, after South Africa, so this tournament is set to be one of our most competitive. Also, seeing that it will be one of our first for next year, we are going to use it to set the tone for the rest of the year,” the all-rounder added.
Another player, Irene van Zyl hailed the arrival of Van der Merwe as a breath of fresh air for the team, which for a while was game-starved. “Ever since the new coach arrived we have been getting more game time. We literally play every weekend, which is good for the team’s fitness level,” Van Zyl said.
She further commended Cricket Namibia for its developmental stance, especially with the establishment of a programme that will see the introduction of more girls to the game of cricket.
Women cricket and girls’ development are said to be at the forefront of Cricket Namibia’s vision and strategy for the next two years. Her utterances were corroborated by Van der Merwe who hinted that part of his primary objective is to mainstream the sport – particularly for girls and women – throughout and to ensure that a proper feeder system is in place for the women’s national team.