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All-round excellence

The retirement of several of the ‘old guard’ has left Chloe Tryon as a senior player in the South African women’s cricket side.

Chloe Tryon had just turned 16 when she got the call that would change her life. “I got told I was in the T20 squad for the World Cup,” she remembers. It came as a complete surprise. Tryon was still at school, playing cricket mostly with boys, with her father as her coach and had just attended a training camp for aspirant women’s players.  

“I was very nervous. I told my dad after that camp that I didn’t think I was good enough, I was still young and I didn’t think they would take me,” she told SportsClub. “So when I got the message, I thought I was going to hear that I didn’t make it. When they told me I was selected, I don’t think it sank in. I was speechless.  

“My dad was a little bit more excited than me. He was my number-one coach from a young age and he was super stoked. I was just trying to process it.” And the magic did not stop there. Before she knew it, Tryon was travelling to the Caribbean to play in a Women’s T20 World Cup, “even though nobody even knew that female cricketers played in World Cups and it definitely wasn’t televised,” and was picked in the starting XI for the opening game.  

She was asked to open the bowling with Shabnim Ismail. “I got thrown the ball, and I didn’t know if I was ready,” she said. “I stood at the top of my run-up and I told myself that this was a moment I will remember for a long time, so I must make use of it.” 

That very delivery claimed her first international wicket. Stafanie Taylor was caught by Alicia Smith and even though South Africa fell 17 runs short in the run chase, Tryon remembers that moment as “the highlight of my career,” in spite of the team’s misfortunes. They lost all three group-stage matches and stood no chance of qualifying for the knockouts or getting close to the trophy. 

“But just to experience that and be next to the best in the world was breath-taking,” Tryon said. “It made me hungry to want to be part of it again.” Fast-forward 14 years and Tryon has played in three fifty-over and six T20 World Cups. From no-hopers in 2010 to semi-finalists in the past two ODI World Cups and losing finalists in the home T20 World Cup next year, she has first-hand experience of the progress women’s cricket has made. “We’ve seen the game improve so much. When I started, we had one or two tours a year and we’d meet up just before, have a small pre-camps regularly and we are working on skills.  

We never did that when I came into the team. The women’s game is changing skill wise. You can see the crazy shots coming out and the sixes are becoming bigger. It’s exciting for the game and good for women’s cricket.” 

She could easily have only been talking about herself because when it comes to big hitting, there is no one better in the South African setup. Tryon is one of only nine players with more than 1 000 T20I runs for South Africa and has a strike rate of 137.85, the highest among the top fifty players. 

She is also the best hitter in ODIs, where she has a strike rate of 99.94 and is South Africa’s ninth-highest run scorer. Those numbers have got her deals at the Women’s Big Bash League, CPL, IPL and the Hundred and have helped her develop her game. 

“The leagues are really good for the game because it open you up to new challenges. I’ve learnt a lot because I get to work with different coaches around the world,” she said. But it is not all about clean ball striking and, as a senior in the squad, Tryon is also trying to show she can be an anchor.   

“I’ve always been looked at as a power hitter but over the years, I have tried to change my game a little bit and work on being able to play fifty-over games, where I am batting for 30 overs and taking the game as deep as I can,” she said. “I don’t want to just be put in one category. I’ve realised that I’ve got plenty of time to bat in different formats, so I am taking a lot more responsibility when it comes to that.”  

And she also offers something with the ball. Having started out as a left arm pace-bowling all-rounder because “my dad always told me, I want you to do everything,” she switched to spin and now has 76 international wickets to her name across all formats. Although she does not always bowl a full quota of overs in a match, Tryon is always available to her captain as an option and will never turn down the opportunity to turn her arm over. 

“I enjoy being in the game, so it’s good to be an all-rounder. And on some days, when it doesn’t go well with the bat, then I want to come back with the ball. I am a fierce competitor so to do both is quite ideal.”  

Except when it comes at a price. The increasing volume of cricket and opportunities to play around the world means that injuries are more likely, and Tryon suffered a groin niggle after pushing herself through a season in England during the home winter. “Last year was tough for me. I tested the waters a little bit because I played domestic cricket in Leeds in the off season, so I played a lot of cricket,” she said. 

She had to opt out of SA’s tour to Pakistan and missed series against New Zealand and Bangladesh but was named in the touring party to Australia. “I want to be able to manage that a little bit more going forward and make sure I take breaks. It’s important as a player to have those mental breaks because a lot of cricket can become very consuming. 

“For me, making sure I step away from it a little bit, take some time out, reset, refresh and go back into it again.” At 29 years old, Tryon still has several years ahead of her. She has not put a number on it but would like to “keep going for as long as I can,” with the aim of being part of a South African side that wins the World Cup. “That’s what we want,” she said. 

“We’ve been to a couple of semi-finals, and we could have done so many things differently, so we want to make sure we have learnt from those mistakes. It’s been a long time coming for us. It’s hard to just get there and miss out. It sucks to be on that side of it so many times.” But South Africa will have the opportunity to go one step further as early as later this year, at the Women’s T20 World Cup in October in Bangladesh. 


Words By: Firdose Moonda
Photography: Mike Egerton/Pa Wire/Pa Images/Backpagepix