Proteas pace bowler, Masabata Klaas, has revealed that she put her cricket career on hold for two years because of her pregnancy.

In an interview with The Sporting Detail, Masabata Klaas said: “Since my debut in 2010, I have had some ups and downs in my life and my career. I got pregnant in 2013, so from that year to 2015, I was out of the international cricket scenes because I had to look after my daughter.’’

Women in Sport

Women in sport go through many challenges, from lack of payment, support, sponsorship, discrimination, not being taken seriously, and having to be professional athletics, a student or a mother at the same time. They don’t enjoy the same benefits afforded their male counterparts in spite of producing exceptional performances.

It is rare to hear of sportsmen who have had to place their careers on hold due to the birth of their newborn baby, it is always the responsibility of the mother. You only hear of sportsmen missing a tour or new games so they can be present for the birth of their baby.

Masabata Klaas Made Tough Decisions as a Young Mother

As a new mother, Klaas had to made some tough decisions and work extremely hard to get back in shape and back into international cricket.

“For three years I worked hard on my cricket skills because I love the game, I love what I am doing. I told myself that I am going to make my way up, work as hard as I can to be back in the national squad which I did.”

The hard work initially paid off for Klaas as she was one of the Proteas Women players who were awarded national contracts by Cricket South Africa (CSA). As a result, she started to feature on the South Africa Women’s team on a more regular basis. This, unfortunately, meant that Klaas was forced to spend a lot of time away from her “adorable daughter,” Rethabile (as Klaas describes her) because of the demands of international cricket.

In an exclusive interview with Tokelo Martin Mokhesi, Klaas said: “To be honest with you, I must thank my mom because she is the one who is looking after my daughter when I am away. And I must say cricket helps a lot regarding financials, so my daughter is well taken off.”

Life as a Professional Cricketer

Klaas is not only a professional cricketer and a mother to Rethabile, but also a project management student with plans to study sport management.

The 28-year-old grew up in Botshabelo in the Free State where she started playing cricket with boys in primary school as an 11-year-old girl. Just like many other girls, Klaas played in boys’ teams until she reached provincial age group cricket.

Growing up in Botshabelo, Klaas was not exposed to women’s cricket. In her community, there was this perception that cricket was a men’s sport played by white people only. Despite all this, the legendary Makhaya Ntini became her inspiration, favourite player, and role model.

“I didn’t understand cricket at first until I saw Ntini bowl. I kept telling myself that one day I want to be like this guy, that’s when I started to like cricket.

“At school, boys used to play during lunch time so I decided that I was going to join them and from there, I just fell in love with the game.”

The Botshabelo-born star made her Proteas debut in 2010 against Sri Lanka in Potchefstroom. She describes her journey as “exciting” even though she encountered challenges on her road to wearing the green and gold.

Ntini was the only black player in the South African national team when Klaas was still trying to find her feet. Klaas found some motivation from watching the Mdingi Express terrorise batsmen with his skill and pace.

When I was growing up I heard people talk about Makahaya Ntini, Ntini that, Ntini this… that is when I started to develop an interest in cricket and started to watch a lot of cricket. The way he bowled motivated me and his bowling action made me want to play even more.”

Women’s cricket has grown and changed a lot since Klaas made her debut almost a decade ago, even though there is still a long way to go in terms of broadcasting, marketing, sponsorship, and equality.

“Where I used to stay, they thought cricket was for men, but that changed when women’s cricket was shown on television and community members started becoming interested, coming to me asking a lot of questions. I sat down with them and explained that our games being shown on television makes a lot of young girls become interested in playing cricket.”

At 28, Klaas has played in three ICC Women’s World Cups for the Proteas.

I want to be in a winning team. I want our team to win the World Cup. That’s the most important thing I want to achieve.

The medium-pace bowler is still hungry for success and wants to improve and take her game to the next level.

“When you are fit mentally you can achieve a lot of things. But the most important thing is I want to work on my batting because, with my bowing I am started to get where I want to be. So batting… I must work hard on that.”

Klass is part of the experienced and strong Proteas Women bowling unit. She has played more than 50 international games for the Proteas but still has an appetite to learn and grow her game.

It feels nice to be around players like Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka and Shabnim Ismail. You learn a lot from them more especially Kapp and Ismail because they play in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) so they have a lot more experience than I do and it’s a nice feeling to sit with them and ask them questions.”

Free State-born Masabata Klaas said young girls who want to play for the Proteas Women must keep on working hard because they never know when they are going to get a call to come and play for the national team.

“Hard work does pay and if you are dedicated in what you want to achieve in life you will get it,” she concluded.

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Tokelo Martin Mokhesi is a journalism graduate. Born and bred in Soweto. Tokelo Martin also known as Teekay is currently studying towards his Bachelor of Commerce in Business Management. Qualified sports journalist and social media manager. A keen sportsman, he plays cricket at Soweto Pioneers Cricket Club and is a former Ultimate Frisbee player for South Africa U24 (The Wild Dogs). On a mission to change lives through the power of sport. Tokelo is also a sport activist, and aspiring business owner/sport academy/agency/club Email: Martinmokhesi7@gmail.com

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