'Slowcoach' Dane van Niekerk axed from T20 World Cup squad
South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk has been sensationally left out of the T20 World Cup squad, after failing a fitness test by mere seconds.
Cricket South Africa's fitness standards state female players must run 2km within nine minutes 30 seconds and it is understood Van Nierkerk was just 18 seconds shy of the cut-off.
In an Instagram post Van Niekerk said she was "absolutely broken" by the decision, which will see her miss out on a home World Cup.
The all-rounder has made 194 appearances for South Africa, and has served as captain in all three formats since 2016. She is the only South African who has scored more than 1,500 runs and taken more than 50 wickets in T20Is.
However Van Niekerk, 29, had not played for South Africa since September 2021 due to a broken ankle, missing both last year's 50-over World Cup and the Commonwealth Games.
Though she had returned to domestic cricket, including the Hundred for the Oval Invincibles last summer, she was left out of South Africa's tri-series against India and the West Indies earlier this month.
Coach Hilton Moreeng had said he expected her to be ready for February's tournament but when she was given a final opportunity to prove her fitness level a few days ago she failed to meet the standard and no exception would be made for the long-time captain.
"Dane was given an extensive opportunity to meet the minimum criteria for the fitness benchmark," said selector Clinton du Preez. "Many other players have gone down this route, everyone is quite familiar with the situation and what is required. In December, we set it out clearly with where she needs to be.
"Dane will always be missed on the cricket field. We have reminded her of that. We also appreciate the effort she tried to put into meeting the fitness level."
Van Niekerk's omission, at such a pivotal moment ahead of a home major tournament, has sparked criticism of the CSA.
Retired South Africa great Dale Steyn was one of the most prominent people to wade into the debate, mockingly tweeting: "Oh f---, I missed my 2km time by seconds, must mean I’m s---."
Meanwhile Van Niekerk's partner Marizanne Kapp – who did make the World Cup squad – tweeted that she was "one of the best captains in world cricket".
As cut-throat as it appears, there is precedent for such a decision as the CSA have become stricter on fitness requirements in recent years.
South Africa men's player Sisanda Magala missed out on competing for Central Gauteng Lions in the domestic T20 Challenge due to missing the CSA's men's 2km fitness test by 12 seconds.
Meanwhile Van Niekerk's former team-mate Lizelle Lee retired abruptly at age 30 last year, after she was dropped from the national team for failing a mandatory body composition test and being deemed over the weight targets set for her.
Sune Luus will continue to captain the team in van Niekerk's absence, as South Africa open the World Cup against Sri Lanka in Cape Town on February 10.