“We’ve done our best to give the girls in the country the best possible chance,” Luus said. “We would have obviously loved to win, but I don’t think we could have given it a bigger shot and more of a chance. It’s obviously up to CSA and the Minister of Sport and whoever’s in charge of cricket in this country to knock on doors and open those doors and give women’s cricket the best chance they could possibly have to keep up with Australia, with England and with India.”
In naming those three, Luus was making a specific point about countries with T20 women’s leagues – albeit that India’s inaugural event only kicks off next week – and the role they play in developing the game. Like so many before her, she called the WPL “massive for women’s cricket” and asked CSA to consider a women’s edition of its new league, the SA20.
“Hopefully [we] get an SA20 for women’s as well,” she said. “That would really, really help South African women’s cricket, especially just to get that depth that we keep talking about.
“If you look at all those leagues – they are in the top three nations, and that’s why they’re so good. That’s why they have that depth, because they have leagues where overseas players come and play and you get used to playing with them and against them. That’s something we really need to look at. We’ve been asking for a very long time for an SA League. I know it’s budget constrained, and there’s always resources and all those things but we’ve given our girls the best chance we could have. And it’s up to CSA and everyone involved to kind of make that happen and give it our best shot.”
The SA20 launched this summer, after CSA ‘s previous two attempts at a T20 league failed, and was an immediate success. With all six teams owned by IPL franchises and a broadcast deal in India, the league will turn a profit in its first year. There was initially talk of a women’s spin-off event from the second year but in the last few weeks, it emerged that the schedule of the WBBL in December-January and the WPL in march may complicate the launch of a women’s SA20.
The organisers are also understood to be concerns that there is an insufficient number of women’s cricketers in the provincial system to form a quality franchise league. That is exactly the chicken-and-egg situation Luus does not want CSA to get caught up in. Without starting a league, how will they create the players who are good enough to play in a league, was the unspoken question.
The answers will not come immediately as the success of the T20 World Cup is yet to be fully processed. What’s clear is that Australia, who are now six-time champions, still have a sizable gap between themselves and the rest but that South Africa, with fewer resources, are catching up and perhaps even punched above their weight.
“We got a sniff of how a final is, and the feelings and the nerves and everything,” Luus said. “Now we have a heartache of not winning a final. But getting through that hurdle of the semi-final – at next year’s World Cup, when we get there again, it’s not going to be a big thing for us anymore to break that curse. It’s just for us to really look at that final and say, ‘Okay, cool, how are we going to get through the final and be on the other side of that?'”
If she sounds like too much of a dreamer, know that South Africa dared to dream and beyond. Weeks before this World Cup began, they weren’t even sure they would draw one big crowd, never mind three record crowds at Newlands – for the opener, the semi-final and the final – and capacity crowds at St George’s Park and Boland Park too. This World Cup has exceeded every expectation and although South Africa want to take the next step into the T20 league era, for now, they just want to savour the moment.
“When we started the tournament, we were hoping it wasn’t going to be too embarrassing with empty stadiums, following up on the MCG three years ago. We just hoped there would be a couple of people coming to the game,” Luus said. “To see this at every single game we’ve played is absolutely next level. The country were really behind us and it’s something we never really thought would happen. It’s such an honour to be able to have that opportunity to inspire a nation and for them to come out and watch us play. It was such a blessing.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent for South Africa and women’s cricket