Mignon du Preez: A Giant of Women’s Cricket Turns 32

In a game that loves to anoint famous nicknames to its icons, Meg Lanning known as “Superstar,” Sachin revered as the ‘Little Master,’ Shabnim Ismail famous for being “Cape Town Express,” and Brian Lara celebrated as ‘The Prince of Trinidad,” Mignon du Preez of the Proteas women doesn’t really have one.

Not that she would mind being this absolute beacon of simplicity.

Though, what the famous South African batswoman does have is something none around her or in her league have- a branch of South Africa’s famous SuperSport Park stadium being named after her- the Mignon du Preez gates.

Unveiled in mid-March, 2019, Mignon’s name has also been carved on the wall of fame.

Forging a path for good

In an age where cricket is still accommodating and often ‘accepting’ women in the mainstream, Mignon is a trailblazer of sorts, a character in an age favouring shenanigans, a real hero in a time where countless exist on social media landscape in virtual avatars.

Rare are moments where the game rewards itself by extending tribute to characters that have helped shaped its identity. Its stature. Its very being.

And when Cricket South Africa honoured Mignon by naming those gates after her, in truth, one was reminded fervently of a biblical expression in Revelation 21:21, “Those not fit to enter heaven are denied entrance at the gates.”

Though, in cricketing parlance, you could be anyone- a newbie, someone trying to find her feet in the international annals, an experienced ‘have-been,’ or a talent stymied by uncertainty- there’s most definitely a chance that Mignon du Preez would make space for you and there won’t be any denials!

No boundaries

At the conclusion of South Africa’s record-breaking tour to India where for the first time in history, the visitors smashed the hosts in both ODIs and T20Is, Mignon took to social media to post a picture with someone who happened to be an opponent.

Putting her hands on Deepti Sharma’s shoulders, posing with that bright smile that can electrify a city for its innocence and charm, Mignon’s caption read- “Friendship has no boundaries!”

And that’s really what makes South Africa’s most illustrious run-scorer endearing to tens of thousands around the world.

Perhaps with the Aussies and the English you can sense a bit of sternness on occasions, the occasional stare, if not a rebuke.

But what you get from the famous Pretorian is a feeling of earthiness, a down-to-earth-ness that’s hard to find in an age where fans are perhaps crazier to create rivalries between sides than the sides themselves.

Though, make no mistake. In the exact same charismatic batswoman, there exist two characters.

So, what we have here?

There’s the serious grafter of runs, who, specifically from the onset of 2018, vastly improved in the briefest form of the game, which is mostly about switching modes as a batter. This is the person who will combat all adversaries who push the Proteas women to the edge and will stand in between an opponent and the Proteas.

Then, there’s the ever-smiling persona beneath the helmet with twinkling eyes and an affability that’s rare to find. Well, exceptional for a cricketer whose name bears a plethora of achievements.

And in being all of this, forget not what Mignon du Preez has accomplished- over 5,200 international runs, 3 centuries and 23 fifties.

But while the excesses of international cricket pose threats of severity, challenging the physical frame of athletes, imposing the daunting challenge of playing all throughout the year, Mignon, hardly hampered by these demands, has emerged as a parable of longevity.

A school-girl prodigy, she was once a kid who debuted aged 18. For someone who struck a mega double hundred when she had barely entered her teens, greater heights would soon attract the smiling attacker of bowlers.

Where most cricketers dream of donning the captaincy, Mignon did so for both T20 Internationals as well as the ODIs and for well over half a decade.

To this date, she’s played in seven world cups and hasn’t merely contested but scored most runs for a South African cricketer – amassing 1750 T20 international runs at a healthy strike rate of 101 and nearly 3500 ODI runs.

And at that stage of her career where she could simply have become resistant to change, unwilling to adapt to growing demands, Mignon even excelled in the most watched premium T20 franchise-based league- Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League.

What about the future?

In a sport that likens young blood akin to a girl’s love for diamonds, a 30-year-old Mignon du Preez became the second-highest scorer for the Melbourne Stars, smashing 266 from just 14 games. But implicit in du Preez’s desire to excel is her penchant for improvement and taking each game as a new challenge.

It’s worth noting that someone whose T20I strike rate was no more than 95 two and a half years ago, currently sits north of 101.

A lot of it could be credited to a rather impressive outing she had and that too on spinning, testing sub-continental turfs of India, during the 2018 tour.

Starting with a 27-ball-31 in the opening T20, following it up with cameos like an 11-ball-17, du Preez was just beginning to get into the groove.

In the pinnacle of the contest, the 2020 Women’s World T20, her final over six on Katherine Brunt walloped England and sailed South Africa right on top of an opponent it had never previously beaten in any of the world cups.

Mignon’s contribution- an unbeaten 15 off just 11 at the crunch situation of the game!

To this day, one wonders what might have been the run tally that one of the most dependable batters around would’ve gone on to amass had we seen more Test cricket for women, which rather inexplicably misses nearly every team’s yearly calendar.

It didn’t take long for the bright-eyed right-hander to stamp her authority in cricket’s longest format, smashing 102 in the only Test she played around a decade back in time.

That the standard-bearer of excellence for Proteas women is still around, despite a 15-year-long run spells good news for just about everybody.

Mignon’s seen generations change around her, having played with the likes of Cri-Zelda Brits and Sunette Loubser to now being an anchor to the likes of Laura Wolvaardt, Tumi Sekhukhune, and Anneke Bosch.

Yet, what hasn’t changed is her desire to excel and represent what it truly means by the phrase Proteas Fire- the spark of incandescence that burns with bright hope to seek victories for South Africa eternally!

At 32, having witnessed both peaks and lows, the latter perhaps reminding one of the Proteas’ heartbreaks at the 2017 ODI world cup, where they were the semi-finalists and the 2020 T20 world cup, where they lost to Australia, Mignon is gearing to inspire a new generation of talents who desire to stoke the Proteas fire.

Just like the figurehead who sports a warm smile and commitment, but never any trace of arrogance or ire.

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