22/05/2024

Laura Wolvaardt cover drives another ball away to the boundary. Image: @StrikersWBBL. Twitter

South African international Laura Wolvaardt has one of the best cover drives in world cricket as she and the Strikers look to continue their great start to WBBL|07

Laura Woolvardt sat in her room as she arrived in Australia completing hotel quarantine and kept on finding herself distracted.

Not because there’s not much to do in hotel quarantine, or discounting that her university exams were on the horizon and 14 days locked in would give ample time to study, but the distraction came from taking in the cricketing action on her TV.

The 22-year-old South African’s eyes were fixated on northern and south east Queensland taking in the engrossing cricket between Australia and India and as a lover of the game, just wanted a piece of the action.

Wolvaardt is in Australia for the 7th addition of the Weber Women’s Big Bash League, linking back up with the Adelaide Strikers after an eye-catching first season in blue last summer after making the switch from the Brisbane Heat.

She arrives with several of her Protea teammates to play this competition which she says is up there with the best domestic competitions in the world.

“It’s 14 really high-quality games and it’s really good practice for all of us as well,” she told The Inner Sanctum.

“So I think we can learn a lot from being over here and in new environments and being exposed to new conditions, new coaches, and new teams. So yeah, I think it’s awesome that so many of us South Africans can come over here and yeah, I think it’s, it will be great for cricket in the long run”

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It’s been a busy season for Woolvardt and her South African teammates who have enjoyed tours to India, the West Indies, and a stink in the UK playing in the first edition of ‘The Hundred’ for the Northern Superchargers. But despite the long stint on the road, Wolvaardt just wants to be out at the crease marking centre and help grow the women’s game.

And after watching the test match between Australia and India, is waiting for the day that she can get to don the whites herself and receive her own south African baggy green.

“I think we’re always saying that we want more cricket and to play more games and now that it’s finally happening. I think all we can do is make the most of it because it’s so important that we play more cricket instead of just one or two tours a year, especially to move the game forward in the long run. I think it’s super important to play everything that you can.” she said.

Cricket wasn’t the top priority for Wolvaardt though. She didn’t need cricket after matriculating top of her class at Parklands College in Bloubergstrand with seven distinctions and was gladly accepted at Stellenbosch University’s medical school. In an alternate universe, she is on her way to becoming a doctor.

Like most stories on Australian shores where you chose between two different sports, the choice between a career in medicine and a cricket career loomed large for the stylish right-hander.

“growing up, [becoming a]doctor was kind of my main goal that I was working towards in school. And it was only really in my last year of school that I started playing for South Africa and that Cricket was becoming more and more serious. So I did I did change my plans a little bit after school. But yeah, it was a tough decision but so far very, very happy with my decision of choosing cricket.”

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Now studying a BSC in life sciences with physiology and genetics through long-distance learning at UNISA, Wolvaardt’s primary focus is on her sport but is able to find the right balance through her studies.

“‘I really hate having to study. But like if I think back, I think my quarantine would have felt a lot longer if I really had nothing to do that. Yeah, I use that time to really knuckle down on the studies and get some done. So I think it hasn’t been good. It doesn’t always feel like it in the moment when I have to study though. But it is probably good to just get my mind off of cricket for a little.”

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It’s the balance in life, and at the crease which has equipped Woolvardt with one of the most aesthetically pleasing cover drives in the game.

Many cricketers have videos of them playing on YouTube, but a select few have a video of them entitled ‘is it possible to marry a Cricket shot?’.

It was the ICC’s question as they replayed her shot of her lofting Australian pace bowler, Nicola Carey, over cover to the boundary at the SCG in that infamous, rain-affected Semi-Final in the 2020 T20 Women’s World Cup.

The classic shot has become Wolvaardt’s trademark.

“I guess it’s just my favourite shot the cover drive,” she said.

“When I was growing up, one of my coaches is very big on technique and having a good technique and a good foundation to work off of. So I think that’s something that I focused on quite a bit is to get the cover drive right and to get my, my drives and my base and everything as an opening batter.

“But it was really good. A lot of bowlers bowl outside off stump, So the cover driver is always important.

As the Strikers prepare to welcome strike weapon Megan Schutt back into the squad for the trip west for the next group of games, Wolvaardt says the mood is great in the Strikers camp having started the season with some early wins on the board.

With South African teammate and national skipper Dane van Niekerk joining Woolvardt in blue this season, there is some extra familiarity amongst the group for the young South African star.

“It’s nice to have a familiar face from back at home around. We can speak a bit of Afrikaans every now and then, which is always very nice. And yeah, she’s a quality cricketer, as well. And obviously my captain back at home, so I’m always learning a lot from her, cricket wise and batting wise. So to have her over here is very cool.”

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