Putting the ‘Brits’ and pieces together - Cricket keeps giving Tazmin’s perseverance second chances

Tazmin Brits has beaten the worst life has to offer, beaten death even. So what’s a game of cricket and its complexities then?

Published : Jul 09, 2024 10:42 IST , CHENNAI - 14 MINS READ

FILE PHOTO: Tazmin Brits of South Africa.
FILE PHOTO: Tazmin Brits of South Africa. | Photo Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

FILE PHOTO: Tazmin Brits of South Africa. | Photo Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

“I tried to buy a few runs off Amazon but it didn’t seem to work.”

Humour, South African batter Tazmin Brits will admit, is a comforting medicine when the storm has passed. That said, the first half hour of her 90-minute stay at the crease – from the start to the finish of the South African innings in the first T20I against India– was painful to say the very least.

The 33-year-old desperately swung her bat, clumsily trying to negotiate the ball off the stump line, and did everything possible to beat fielders, but in vain. She would eventually register a match-winning half-century, a 56-ball 81, but said just one thing - “I am not happy with this.”

The second T20I saw a different side to Brits. She was more confident, despite early nerves from a denied stumping, smashing the Indian spinners en route to her second fifty on the trot, taking the Proteas to 177, a total they didn’t need to defend courtesy of a washout.

“I got into a bit of a hole with the ODIs and coming back from a knee injury and not getting runs,” she told reporters after the first game.

“If you don’t get runs, you’re not doing your job. I tried to hit the ball too hard in the first few overs. I wanted to hit the leather off the ball, maybe send the ball back to South Africa. But I wasn’t getting into good positions. There are many basic things I should have looked at, now that I think about it. But we’re human. We struggle. When you struggle, you have to try to find a way out.”

Brits is emotional about her game. Her worry was plastered on her face when she struggled to hit decently against Pooja Vastrakar. She was worried about letting her batting partners down. But back to the wall and a different Brits emerged, as she has time and again, year after year.

Brits has beaten the worst life can offer; beaten death even. What’s a game of cricket then?

Never say die

Ahead of the 2012 London Olympics, a 20-year-old Brits was gearing up for her maiden Summer Games. A promising javelin thrower, the South African had made the world pay attention by winning gold at the World Youth Championships in Athletics at Ostrava, Czechia in 2007 and a bronze in Moncton, Canada in 2010, and was raring to qualify to compete on one of the biggest stages in the athletics world.

Tazmin Brits in 2007. She won the World Youth Championships that year.
Tazmin Brits in 2007. She won the World Youth Championships that year. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Tazmin Brits in 2007. She won the World Youth Championships that year. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Eight months before the Games, Brits went out with some friends to celebrate the positive messages from her coach regarding making the cut. While returning to her hometown of Klerksdorp from Potchefstroom, Brits looked down at her phone for a second to check a text but misjudged the road ahead. The sudden brakes caused the car to roll and skid. She was flung out as she didn’t have her seatbelt on and the car eventually landed on her after hitting a tree.

Barring a busted lip, every injury was internal. She was left with a broken pelvis, a dislocated hip, a torn colon, a punctured bladder, and plenty of internal bleeding. When she woke up, she had no feeling below the hips and immediately panicked thinking she was paralyzed.

In an interview with the BBC, she revealed how she had to learn to pull herself up to put the pan under her to pee and get off the bed to make her way to the toilet. She would spend several months in the hospital, digesting the possibility of never being able to walk again, let alone returning to sport.

After months in a wheelchair, when she did make her way back on her feet, her first aim was to make the 2014 Olympic team for South Africa. She wanted to be a miracle story.

Life threw her another curveball when bone grew over a screw in her pelvis. More surgery. Longer rehab.

At that time, the voices telling her she couldn’t throw again grew louder. Eventually, the javelin slipped out of her hands and she fell into an abyss.

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“After a few months, friends and family go on with their lives. They expect you to do the same thing, so you fight a battle with yourself. You are so used to that thing. You hold on to it. If that has gone or is taken out of your life, it can’t be replaced. There is nothing else for you.”

Brits’ sponsors dried up, as did her will to fight. She took up jobs at the local grocery store. She admits that she even attempted to take her own life, on more than one occasion. She looks back and says,

“Luckily, nothing panned out.”

Cutting the umbilical cord

Closure only works if you have no regrets about letting something go. Brits would get that opportunity, to bid javelin a proper goodbye, in 2018.

Through her struggles, she played cricket in her community, simply as a way to stay active and engage socially. The mind was still fixated on repairing that fractured relationship with the javelin.

That year, she went to her old school ground and tried throwing the spear around, operating meditatively on muscle memory.

“Who are these people who said I can’t throw,” Brits remembers thinking.

Brits did return to field events, winning some low-level competitions. However, her cricket also bloomed parallelly. While she started off as a seam bowler, runs came at the provincial level and Brits was fast becoming one of the best batters on the domestic circuit. That earned her a call-up to the South African emerging players pool.

Her senior career in cricket began at the age of 27, in 2018, against Bangladesh. And there was no looking back. All that mattered was that she was in green and gold, whether it was with a javelin in hand or a cricket bat.

Love, loss, learning

It must have been a shake-up, switching from life as a competitor in an individual sport to life trying to break into and stay in a team. When she came through, Laura Wolvaardt – now the captain of the side – and Lizelle Lee were a lethal combination of finesse and firepower at the top of the order. Brits had several good scores in a format she was initially called a specialist in but did not cut the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia.

The COVID-19 pandemic then struck. South Africa toured India for five ODIs and three T20Is all within the safety of a bio bubble, winning both legs decisively. Brits was part of the squad but had to return home in a hurry when her father took ill and eventually passed away.

The loss affected her deeply. Two things that honoured her dad would always remain with her, a red figurine of a man he once found while at sea, and a ballerina pose dedicated to her late dad that would become her celebration when she scored a fifty or a hundred.

A step at a time

Brits made the side that headed to New Zealand for the 2022 ODI World Cup. In five batting opportunities she was given, she managed only 52 runs, eventually losing her place in the XI. South Africa was knocked out of the tournament in the semifinal by England. She had a similar experience in Birmingham at the Commonwealth Games later that same year, registering scores of 6, 38, and 21 in a campaign that saw the side win a solitary game.

The muscular opener’s credentials as an explosive bat, albeit an erratic one, were established by then and the hope from the system was that she would settle in and fill the shoes of Lee who hung her boots.

Her moment to shine poignantly came before a home crowd during the Women’s T20 World Cup in 2023. Her tournament began slowly with scores of 12 and 1 in the first two games, but she swiftly turned things around scoring 45 off 36 balls against Australia, a 51-ball unbeaten 50 against Bangladesh, and a 55-ball 68 against England in the semifinal.

That semifinal was also memorable for her heroics on the field. Brits took four catches, the most by a player in a women’s T20I, playing a part in removing England’s top four. The standout moment was a low one-handed catch in the inner circle that showed Alice Capsey the way back to the pavilion for a two-ball duck.

South Africa fell short against Australia in the final, the first time a Protean side had made the summit clash in the game’s history, however, Brits had made her point. She had the ability and the chutzpah too. She just needed to find consistency.

ALSO READ | IND vs SA Women’s Test: When Chepauk proved that resilience needs support too

Another hiccup

Heartbreaks were nothing new for Brits. What would fill the vacuum of a loss like that? More cricket.

She signed up with South East Stars for a stint in the English domestic circuit, scoring 214 runs in four matches for the side. South Africa then toured Pakistan, winning the ODI series 2-1. Brits registered scores of 17, 45 and 32. She also had good returns in the three-match T20I series – although the Proteas lost the series 0-3 – scoring 78, 46, and 18.

Brits’ ballerina celebration
Brits’ ballerina celebration | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Brits’ ballerina celebration | Photo Credit: Getty Images

The side then went Down Under for a multi-format tour. Australia beat South Africa by an innings and 284 runs in the one-off Test where Brits scored a 48-ball 5 and a 137-ball 31. She had an underwhelming run in the ODIs, scroring 1,21 and 31, recovering with a better effort in the T20Is - an unbeaten 59, 41, and 0. The Proteas managed just one win each in the white-ball formats.

Wolvaardt and Co. then hosted Sri Lanka for three T20Is and ODIs each, losing the former 2-1 and drawing the latter 1-1. Brits saw underwhelming returns in the T20Is, managing only 29 runs in total from three innings. The first ODI brought a chance at redemption and Brits grabbed it with both hands, scoring a 128-ball 116 and doing her trademark ballerina celebration, remembering why she still had skin in the game.

The ton eventually went in vain with the match getting washed out, but the bigger worry for Brits was some discomfort in her knee during that innings. MRIs revealed a torn meniscus in the left knee and a sprain in her medial collateral ligament. Another major surgery beckoned.

ALSO READ | IND-W vs SA-W: Luus, Wolvaardt and learning how to follow a good performance with another one


After a few months out of action, Brits was all set for a comeback in India. The ODIs felt like salt rubbed on an already raw wound. Eighteen off 31, five off 11, and 38 off 66 - these weren’t scores that were helping the team, which succumbed to a 0-3 drubbing in Bengaluru. Keeping her knee in mind, Brits was expectedly not in the Test XI in the one-off Test in Chennai. While South Africa braved a bowling onslaught on a track that never turned, Brits was fighting her demons in the nets on the B-Ground at the venue, trying to get ready for the format she specialised in.

That 81-run grind in the first T20I left her grimacing, but it also activated something primal in her. To apologise and be humble for her failures, sure, but to also not give up. To ensure that in the battle of body vs mind, the mind ALWAYS won.

“You have to be fearless. Everyone always says that but to actually do that in a game is always difficult. You fear getting dropped. So you play within yourself.

“It does hurt when India beat us 3-0 [in the ODIs]. But at the end of the day, that’s where you rise, and that’s where you become champions. Your mentality needs to shift. You can’t sit in the corner for too long. If you sit in the corner too long, the game might just go by.”

She hoped to start the second T20I with the rhythm she ended the first one and that she did. Her fluency was aided by an overly experimental Indian bowling order which saw five different bowlers have a go in the PowerPlay. She even survived a stumping that caught her well out of her crease due to a technicality. Nine lives, this one has, she knows it and she knows not to take it for granted, making India pay with a 39-ball 52 in yet another washout.

In a few months, another World Cup is around the corner. ‘Tazzy’ might not have the roaring applause of a home venue lifting her spirits and those of her mates. But she will have that core memory of her mother screaming her name as she clinched that junior javelin gold all those years ago and hope to replicate that with some new silverware this time.

The sport might be different, the toil might be different, but the fight and the glory are all the same and few are as fearless to take the bull by the horns like Tazmin Brits is.

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