Would be great to have a women's IPL, says Sune Luus

Like many successful female cricketers, South Africa captain Sune Luus she had started out by playing with boys.

“One bowling performance close to my heart is the one against Ireland in the 2016 World T20 in Chennai,” Sune Luus (centre, celebrating) says. “I had taken five for eight. I enjoy bowling a lot, and it was as a bowling all-rounder that I had begun my career.”

Night after night, Sune Luus would come to the board room at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium in Surat to explain why South Africa lost, and lost again, to India in the women’s T20 series. She would still smile through the press conference, and answer the questions patiently.

After the last game of the series though, the captain finally had a good reason to smile. Not only did her team win — thus avoiding a whitewash — but she had led from the front too, with a splendid innings at the top of the order.

That smile was still on her face a little later, when she told Sportstar, near the team’s dugout, with the lights still on, how much the tour of India meant to her as a captain and player.

“I was happy when I was given the captaincy for this tour, which has been a good learning curve for me,” says the 23-year-old. “Captaincy definitely helps build character.”

The leg-spinning all-rounder, who has scored nearly 1,700 runs and taken 132 international wickets, says she was pleasantly surprised by the crowd at Surat. All the four matches had drawn full houses.

“The crowds have been the best that we have seen in our careers,” she says. “It was great to play before a crowd that was knowledgeable and supported both the teams.”

Luus, who is only one of the three women to score a fifty and take five wickets in the same ODI, is glad to find women’s cricket becoming more popular in India and the rest of the world.

“Things are a lot better back home, too,” she says. “It has become more professional. We have now got national contracts. And we have a T20 super league too.”

She would like to play when India gets a women’s IPL. “I know there have been exhibition matches in India already, but it would be great if there is a full-on tournament,” she says. “I enjoy playing leagues. I like meeting people and building relationships. I had two of the best months of my life when I played for Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash in Australia last season.”

Australia’s Georgia Wareham is a leg-spinner she respects. “I also like India’s Poonam Yadav and West Indies’ Afy Fletcher,” says Luus. “Rashid Khan is my favourite among men.”

She was taught leg spin by Jacques Rudolph, who played 48 Tests for South Africa, as a batsman. “I was bowling pace till he asked me to try leg spin,” says Luus. “I was introduced to the game by my father, who was a coach.”

Luus has been working hard on her batting for the last three years or so. “I wanted to be one of the best all-rounders in the world,” she says. “For that I needed to improve my batting a bit.” And she batted admirably to score 62 off 56 balls after promoting herself as the opener in the final T20I against India recently.

 

Like many successful female cricketers, she had started out by playing with boys. “My brother also used to play,” she says. “I was always playing with the boys and I was better than a few of them. And that motivated me a bit. I did bowl googlies even then, and I enjoyed bruising a few male egos.”

She was naturally even better when she competed with those from her own gender. In 2012, she was picked for the senior South African women’s tour of Bangladesh, when she was just 16.

“That was when I realised that cricket could well be my career,” says Luus. “I found travelling the world was fun. I realised I am here to entertain and I loved to entertain.”

She has been doing that for the last seven years, now. And there have been several memorable moments along the way.

“I particularly enjoyed my knock (63 not out off 52 balls) in the T20I against England at Taunton last year,” she says. “We were busy losing all our matches on that tour. We had to chase down 161, and I took my team home hitting Katherine Brunt for a six in the last over. I also enjoyed my century partnership with Lizelle Lee for the second wicket.”

Luus has won South Africa matches with her bowling as well. “One bowling performance close to my heart is the one against Ireland in the 2016 World T20 in Chennai,” she says. “I had taken five for eight. I enjoy bowling a lot, and it was as a bowling all-rounder that I had begun my career.”

But she has been working hard on her batting for the last three years or so. “I wanted to be one of the best all-rounders in the world,” she says. “For that I needed to improve my batting a bit.”

At Surat, she showed her batting had indeed improved quite a bit. She had batted admirably to score 62 off 56 balls after promoting herself as the opener in the final T20I. That knock helped the South Africans bat India out of the match, more or less.

“It was certainly one of the most significant innings of my career, something I will remember for a very long time,” she says. “Yes, maybe I should bat more often at the top of the order. Batting early in the innings is something every batter strives to do in his/her career. It is a crucial role.”

Luus is aware that she will have a key role, as an all-rounder, to play in the T20 World Cup, to be held in Australia from February 21. “Yes, I am looking forward to the World Cup,” she says. “I think the strongest teams in the tournament are going to be Australia, England, New Zealand, West Indies and India.”