Once a junior world champion in javelin, Tazmin Brits now has a different chance to claim glory for South Africa after an incredible path to the T20 World Cup final
Olympic dreams to Newlands, Brits eyes World Cup glory
There was a time when Tazmin Brits hoped winning an Olympic gold medal would be the pinnacle of her sporting career.
But on Sunday, it will be the T20 World Cup the 32-year-old opener will have her sights on when first-time finalists South Africa take on the might of five-time champions Australia at Newlands.
The late cricketing bloomer produced a match-winning display with the bat and in the field to help the Proteas upset England in a semi-final thriller, scoring 68 and taking four catches, including a screamer to remove Alice Capsey.Image Id: 6AA204D700F5469494D2C7F8152CF9B1 Image Caption: Teammates swamp Brits after her freak semi-final catch // Getty
And after a slow start to this tournament on home soil, she will go into the final as the tournament’s second-highest run scorer behind Natalie Sciver-Brunt, having struck 176 runs in five innings.
"I try not to get too emotional but yeah, today was very, very special for me," Brits said following the semi-final.
"I'm feeling good. It doesn't always come off, but I'm going to ride the wave while I still can."
When she held her arms aloft in delight following that diving, one-handed effort at mid-wicket to dismiss Capsey, the Olympic rings tattooed on her right bicep were in full view, a remnant of a time when Brits was on an entirely different path.
Hailing from Stilfontein, to the south-west of Johannesburg, she did not follow the traditional cricket pathways of many of her teammates.
Rather, the javelin was the tool of her trade and aged 16 in 2007, she was crowned junior world champion.Image Id: F375171E58C04CA9A618976141D8FB0D Image Caption: The Olympic rings tattooed on Brits’ right bicep // Getty
London 2012 was the goal and Brits was well on track after throwing the qualifying distance in 2011.
But a horror car crash in November of 2011 abruptly shattered that dream; Brits spent months in hospital and had to learn to walk again as she was told her javelin career was over.
It was while trying to process that disappointment and forge a new path in life that Brits found herself playing cricket – first socially, but then increasingly more seriously as she started to make waves at domestic level, all while also juggling work as a waitress in a Potchefstroom.
The right-handed batter debuted for her country aged 27 in 2018, playing 15 matches across a 15-month period between 2018.
But Brits missed out on selection for the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia, unable to keep her spot in a team boasting the top-order talents of Lizelle Lee, Dane van Niekerk and Mignon du Preez among others.
Brushing off that disappointment, she debuted in the one-day format in early 2021, and when the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand rolled around, she made the 15, appearing in five group matches throughout that tournament but ultimately losing her spot in the XI to Lara Goodall ahead of the finals.
In the 12 months since, the retirements of Lee and du Preez and the absence of van Niekerk left South Africa searching for batters to fill the gulf in the top order.
Brits grasped that chance in the Proteas’ first game of the year in January, hitting an unbeaten fifty against West Indies and despite a slow start to this tournament when she registered scores of 12 and one against Sri Lanka and New Zealand respectively, there has been no stopping her since.
"She is such a competitor, it stems from her athletics background," Brits’ mentor and current Namibia coach Francois van der Merwe told the ICC ahead of Sunday’s final.
"She will inspire the dressing room and drag everyone with her over the line.
"Look at those catches, she was always in the game ... when you have had to fight for everything that you have ever received in your life, you find a way in the hard times."
The right-hander is now the tournament’s second-leading run scorer following knocks of 45 against Australia, 50 not out against Bangladesh and 68 against England in the semi-final.
If she can help South Africa pull off a history-making win on Sunday, her first port of call just might be a Cape Town tattoo parlour.
"I won world champs at a younger age so that's always been the top shelf (for me) ... but if we can win a final I think it'll actually beat it – I might have to put the Proteas badge next to (the Olympic tattoo) at the end of the day," she said.
ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2023
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Alyssa Healy (vc), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham
Australia's T20 World Cup 2023 fixtures
Feb 11: beat New Zealand by 97 runs
Feb 14: beat Bangladesh by eight wickets
Feb 16: beat Sri Lanka by 10 wickets
Feb 18: beat South Africa by six wickets
Feb 23: Australia beat India by five runs
Feb 24: South Africa beat England by six runs
Feb 26: Australia v South Africa, Newlands, Cape Town, 3pm local (12am Feb 27 AEDT)