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Ken Borland

Terrible to lose Lee, but her carping has been ugly 0

Posted on September 15, 2022 by Ken

It is always terrible when one of our national teams prematurely loses one of their stars, but the sudden retirement of the 30-year-old Lizelle Lee from the Proteas women’s team has been followed by the ugliest of carping by the player in the aftermath.

Lee retired from the international game on July 8, shortly before the start of their ODI series in England. CSA, Lee, her agent and the players’ union crafted a rose-tinted statement in which the opening batter said she felt she had “given everything I could to the Proteas” and “I feel that I am ready for the next phase in my career and will continue to play domestic T20 cricket around the world.”

But the timing of her retirement, and the whispers that have been circulating that all is not well in the Proteas women’s team changeroom, suggested there was more to this story, and it subsequently emerged that Lee had retired because CSA had withdrawn her from the tour of England after she failed a fitness test and threatened to not give her a No Objection Certificate (NOC), which allows contracted players to ply their trade in overseas leagues.

And then last week Lee claimed in a BBC podcast that this was solely because of her weight, going on to accuse CSA of discrimination because of how she looks and breaking her mentally and physically.

She made it sound like CSA were really awful employers. But I’m afraid Lee has been playing a bit fast and loose with the truth.

The way CSA’s policy is structured, a player’s fitness is measured via four tests which are allocated points adding up to 10. In order to be declared fit for play, six points are required. A score of four or five will see a player put on probation and retesting will be done. Three points or under leads to the player being declared not fit to play.

The weight part of the test is only worth two points, the same as the strength test, while skinfold measurement and the 2km endurance test are worth three points each.

So even if Lee was 5% over her target weight and received zero points in that section, she must have still only earned 3/8 for the other tests.

The parameters of this testing have been investigated and compared with protocols from around the world to ensure they are suitable. Lee’s complaint that the current tests, “especially for women”, are more about how people look than winning games of cricket is disingenuous.

To be part of a winning team, Lee is not just going to be judged on how many runs she scores (which is precious few lately – she has not passed 40 in any of her nine innings for South Africa since September 2021). Things like being able to run quick singles for her batting partner, or mobility and agility in the field are also vital, especially since the Women’s Proteas play almost exclusively limited-overs cricket.

For the women’s game to be treated equally (as it should), it needs to offer skill and athleticism, because they cannot compete with the men in terms of power. There are some extraordinary athletes in women’s cricket and I often feel like the game is more skilful than the men’s version as well.

For Lee to cry discrimination is ironic because all CSA have done is ensure consistency. Sisanda Magala has been pulled out of a couple of men’s squads due to failed fitness tests. For me, it was not a good look when Magala was confined to the sidelines earlier this year for a lack of conditioning, while at the same time, Lee was allowed to join the World Cup squad late and then arrived looking out of shape.

Coupled with the talk of her negative vibe off the field, I’m afraid Lee, the toast of the nation last year, is now behaving like a spoilt girl who wants the team needs to be secondary to her own.

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