The number 67 reflects focus, pragmatism and a foundation for the future. And so does this lady wearing jersey no. 67. Lizelle lee, the wicket keeper and the opening batter for the Protean Women’s Cricket Team. An opener not only initiates batting but also provides a base for the coming batters in the lineup. And this lady born on 2nd April, 1992 never fails to impress by the way she expresses her dedication and hard work that she has been putting for her nation. An ardent sports lover and animal admirer who is now a crucial element of her team and women’s cricket altogether. Lizelle also wanted to be a teacher and a hockey star.
In an exclusive interview with Female Cricket, she reveals her passions and interests, her preparations for the upcoming ICC events and how cricket became a constant.
Tell us about your role in the team and how did you went on to choose cricket as a career?
Okay, so I am a wicket keeper and an opening batsman. I guess most of the stories are more or less the same, I started with my dad and my brother in the backyard and further I played for the boy’s team in primary school and high school and I also played for the boy’s team for around two years, but then they came to me and told me that it is beginning to get dangerous and that I am not allowed to play for them anymore. We did not have a girl’s team at that time so I went and played for another school and we won that league that year, and then applied for another school and also won the league and then after that they decided to make a team at our school, so that is how I got into cricket.
You also played hockey, tell us about what happened that made you choose cricket over hockey?
Hockey was actually my dream, I wanted to play hockey for South Africa and also wanted to be a teacher, when I was in university, I played hockey for them, the Potchefstroom University, and actually after that I left all the sports, so I actually did not play any sports anymore and the about in the middle of my second year I got a call from the national coach at that time asking me to come to a camp at Kimberley and then from there on, I was in the setup though I did not make it to the team.
Who was that coach?
The coach at that time was Yashin Ebrahim, the national coach.
When did you think that cricket carries the potential of being a career?
Honestly, I have never really thought about it, I think it was just the love for the game and how I have always enjoyed it and then coming into the setup, and seeing the girls play, that camp really changed a lot for me, because I had never really seen or done anything of that sort before. And then everything changed, CSA (Cricket South Africa) has been so good to us, invested in us a lot with all the facilities possible, and I think it has gone string to string and since the past two years, everything has become so professional for us that we do not have to worry about anything else. So now, every girl that grows up can actually consider playing cricket for a living seeing the way it all has grown.
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How important is it to think and focus only about cricket and not other things like the times before the team got contracts, how much value does it carry?
Yeah, if you have to do a full time job and then also play cricket, some things have to be left behind now at that time before the team got the contract, it would have been cricket. Because at the end of the day you have to put food on the table and that is very important. Now, you wake up every morning, you know you have to go to your work, that is the cricket field, hitting balls is you work. I think that is one of the best jobs you can ever have, so having not to decide between work and cricket it is fabulous.
What are some of the most memorable performances of your career so far?
I don’t really remember all my games, but hitting my maiden hundred against Australia and also hitting my second hundred against England, unfortunately both of them were in losing causes but it was amazing doing that. And simply walking out on to the field with this team is so amazing; I could not think of anything else that I can do.
Tell us about your experience in the previous world cup, how was that team environment and what was it in England how you came away with it?
We had a tour in South Africa leading to the world cup which was good but not great so the team environment was good but not that wow, we are going to the world cup! and when we got to the world cup everything just changed, it was just a different team, it was an amazing environment and what the girls did was simply brilliant and I think we shocked the world going to the semi finals though it was not our game then, but we knew what we were capable of so it is a great feeling looking back to the world cup.
How does it feel to be the opening batter and also to be the wicket keeper of the team?
I love opening the batting, it is certainly a hard job, playing the new ball and not every game is the same. But I absolutely love it and enjoy it and I think I would want to do that for the next few years and coming to keeping, did not really have one of the best series against England but I think there will be tours when things do not go your way and I have been working very hard for it and it does show in few of the games and slowly it is getting there.
When you initially joined the team, you did not have any plans of joining as a wicket keeper but eventually you had to. Do you think this is somewhere added pressure on yourself because no matter what you think you have to perform in each game with the gloves on and with added responsibilities?
Well, I do think that I am a good fielder and I love my fielding too and that also makes me think that you have to really work hard in order to avoid mistakes especially when you know that you are good at something. I certainly have to work on the basics of keeping from time to time and that is what I have been doing to improve as a keeper and I hope I can continue doing that and even better in the coming years.
As you mentioned earlier, you didn’t really have a great series against England as a keeper but you were absolutely phenomenal with the bat, how did you separate yourself for those two roles and how did you not allow what happened with the gloves not affect your batting?
I think it was not really a good day, the heat and everything but I am just glad that it did not really affect my batting and separating the two roles is so crucial as they are so important as individual roles because they are back up if that is how I can say and that not a great day with one should not affect the other because you can still contribute.
It has been quite long and that women’s cricket is finally getting the due attention and limelight that it deserves, what are your feelings about that knowing people have started getting excited for what you have been doing since such a long time?
I am so excited but disappointed at the same time and that is all because I am not young. (Laughs) I wish I was like twenty years old just like Laura Wolvaardt; she is just nineteen years old and has such a bright future in front of her knowing that you can actually have a future in cricket now and that is absolutely amazing. So hopefully I can continue playing for another ten years at least and push it so far. And absolutely CSA has done so much for us and so for any girl growing up now, it is amazing to see a great and potential future in cricket and make a good living.
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There has been a lot of growth in women’s cricket in terms of the competition and the quality of competition between nations and the quality of competitions at stages like the world cups and the ICC events. What is your take on that and the fact that it has become so influential and the competition is on a next level now?
Talking about our team in specific that is around four to five years ago, we played teams like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka so we never really got the chance to play against Australia and England. But all these ICC tournaments have forced us to challenge ourselves as now we play against the best teams in the world and that helps every single team to prove themselves so there is no more a gap between the top four and the bottom four and that is something good for all the teams in the world. And this increased competition even fascinates our fans and spectators because they are no more one sided games and are always close encounters.
Also, I wouldn’t say that it is a batting dominated game, obviously there are some pitches that suit batters. But then bowlers and batsmen have their own roles which they need to perform to their best. Because there are pitches where the batters struggle as well. So at the end of the day, it is your job and you have to do what you have to.
What do you think of the current South African squad here in the West Indies and do you think the youngsters are ready to take on the world?
Yes, we actually have a very good squad at the moment. I also had an interview before the start of the series where they mentioned about the youngsters and I must say I am quite surprised by their performances. They all are working very, very hard. The future is great for the team as these young girls are absolutely brilliant.
How exciting it is for the team to take on West Indies who are also the defending World T20 Champions?
Well, we are all extremely excited and playing here in West Indies against them is also going to prepare us better for the World cup coming in a few weeks. Obviously the conditions are going to be tough, the weather and everything but I think the team is strong enough to play and go through the toughest of conditions.
Tell us about what you like to do in your spare time?
Play golf. I absolutely love playing golf and I think I am going to make that a professional thing after cricket (Laughs). I even brought my golf club here in the Windies. We tried it in England too and it absolutely relieves the stress, you just go and hit a ball. So yeah, I truly love it.
If you weren’t doing cricket, would you still be a teacher?
If I think about it now, I don’t think I would have been a good teacher. But if I would not have been playing cricket I would have been one, so it is a tough one.
When you are at home and there are no golf clubs, what other interests do you have?
Spending time with my dogs, I love animals and I love my doggies, I have three dogs. So yeah, I just love spending time with my family. I am a big animal lover, and I actually feel crushed when something happens with them and I cry when they get hurt or they die so yes I do consider myself as a big animal lover.