From playing with best friends in school, to opening the innings for South Africa, this journey definitely belongs to someone so extraordinary. Laura Wolvaardt, the protean young gun being one of the most experienced player of the team. Unveiling the journey of international cricket at the young age of 16, Laura has been one of the most inspiring yet crucial part of the protean women. A lover of biomedical science, this young lady surely is a powerhouse of talent. Felicitated with 2013 cricket South Africa U-19 Female cricketer of the year and also the Women’s newcomer of the year, 2017 at the annual cricket South Africa Awards.
Female cricket takes you through a beautiful and inspiring journey of this young talent filled with memories, decisions and true passion for one’s dreams.
Tell us about yourself? Where you began from, about your dreams and aspiration and exploring your love for cricket?
I started playing when I was five years old and all my best friends were boys so they used to play cricket and I did not want to miss out on any fun, so I used to join them and it turned out such that I really liked cricket. I have always been enjoying batting, I simply love it. Till this very day it has been my favorite thing to do. I have always been batting for fun, it is just recently that I have started taking it so seriously, as playing for South Africa is a huge thing, and I love every bit of it.
Is it true that you used batting as a stress reliever? Like while studying or to free your thoughts you used to bat to relieve stress?
Exactly, it was always my study break and whenever I was busy with exams and had an hour or so, I would go and bat because that was the thing I enjoyed the most. I do not have nets at home, but I used to train at a place very close to my heart, so I just gave me coach a call and then went to bat and it relieved all my stress.
Making your debut at such a young age how was the feeling of that transformation from playing for fun to playing for South Africa in the world cup and all the attention is on you as you came out and completely wowed the world?
I think it was great and it always feels good. Making my debut at 16, all I was told is to enjoy every moment. It was always my dream to play for the Proteas, but I did not really think it would happen this soon so it was quite a surprise when I got my call, but then I just tried to enjoy as much as I could, though I was pretty nervous during my first game. In fact, my feet were not moving nicely, and I was not even able to sing the national anthem properly. But then during the world cup, I tried to simply enjoy my batting and doing well for the team instead of thinking too much about “world cup”.
You did become a major thing in that world cup for South Africa, even though the team was looking like they were truly enjoying , the success followed as well?
Yeah, truly the whole team was charged up and full of fire and passion. The fans were also able to see the passion we had and that is why when we lost the semi finals, the disappointment and how heartbroken we and our fans were could be seen, so the passion could truly be reflected.
What made you choose cricket over every other sport? Was it playing with your friends?
Well, I think so because they played cricket so I would not go and play some other sport. I did play hockey throughout high school and primary school and really enjoyed it. But again, there is nothing like batting, it is just the best.
When did cricket as a career path strike? It was a watershed moment for you, one way you had cricket as a career and on the other med school. Has this gap year helped make you that decision?
Honestly, it has not really helped me because my plan in that gap year was to play cricket and then go into medicine but I have really enjoyed my cricket in that span which has actually made my decision more difficult. But I have contacted my university and when I get back home, we will be having a chat if they can help me by any means or else I will have to choose. Because playing cricket as this stage, I cannot pursue medicine as well. But I really love and enjoy my cricket and really do not want to leave it, so I am just hoping that somehow they accommodate me or else I will have to figure out something in the meantime.
You are incredibly intelligent and have always been book-smart as well as cricket-smart. Is there anything else you would consider studying besides medicine?
Well, for now I have applied in B.Sc in Biomedical sciences with Unisa, the nice thing about it is that you can spread it over up to eight years so that would almost be the perfect scenario for me as I can play my cricket, study for the next however many years I want to and go back to medicine once I am older, I just need to find out about how they keep my place in the medicine programme.
What was your parent’s take on the whole cricket vs. studies situation? Are they really supportive obviously you being a national treasure and do they have any feeling either way?
Well, a few years ago it was medicine because it was a more stable career path but in the last few years, they have seen that cricket has really great opportunities, the way it has grown in the last few years is really amazing. Even before leaving for this tour, they told me that I could use this tour to think and the take a decision and that they would support me either way and would be happy as long as I am happy.
The massive changes coming in for women’s cricket must have also been an advantage in the conversation with your parents?
Yes exactly, Cricket keeps pushing itself with these changes and it has greatly helped me and has opened me up towards my career as the scope in women’s cricket is increasing, also taking a decision is becoming more difficult.
What is your most memorable moment in your career so far?
Playing in that world cup semi final even though we lost the game, so it is a bitter sweet memory I can say, I just felt so close to my teammates and how we lost together, fought together and the whole spirit is something I will never forget.
How does it feel to be a batter as they are the ones that seem to be taking over cricket with huge sixes and big hits that are being concentrated more upon? How does it feel to play your kind of cricket in this span?
I think it is great to be a batter, but at the same time all these batters are working extremely hard towards improving their game and bringing new shots. So as a batter you can never take it easy or stick to what you have, so I am just focusing on becoming better and learning different shots and also improving my T20 game.
Women’s cricket is starting to receive a lot of attention and respect, how do you feel about that?
I think it is all about time. There are many players in the team who are at a very later stage in their careers and initially did not get this recognition, but they have worked extremely hard in achieving this as the future generations will only have it better so it is always great to be heading towards a whole new era.
It is kind of ironic that you are the most experienced yet the youngest player in this South African team, how do you feel about that?
I at times find it awkward calling them youngsters as in age they are all older than me, but I think it is amazing that I have been given the opportunity to have this much experience already and also it is nice to see these youngsters coming in because I can kind of relate to them. So yeah, it is a good mix of experience.
How excited are you being in the West Indies and taking on the home side that is also the defending champions of the world T20?
I think it is perfect as we have a world cup coming next month here, so we can train ourselves in the conditions as well as get a sneak peek into how the pitches would play. Also, we would be playing against such a wonderful team which would help us measure ourselves as they have won the last edition of the tournament so it is actually the perfect preparation.
You are a very intriguing human being, there are so many layers to you, and you have got so many other interests. What are some other things apart from cricket that fascinate you?
Well, I play guitar and sing along and making my music at home, it has not been getting the intention it deserves lately with me being away from home, I think I should bring along my guitar when on tours, also reading and spending time with my friends and family at home.
Tell us about that YouTube channel of yours?
Please don’t go look at that YouTube channel! (Laughs), I think there are a few music videos that my school posted when I was in grade 9 and it is actually really embarrassing.
If cricket and medicine were not a part of your life, what else would be there?
It would surely be something that interest me, like biology, human anatomy or maybe being an engineer because my dad is one, so then I could relate with him. I am a person who would go for a safer option like study; get a degree and a job. I am not the one opening a studio and taking greater risks!