All things being equal, Sinalo Jafta wouldn’t have been at Newlands on Sunday. She wouldn’t have played in a T20 World Cup final. She wouldn’t have heard the biggest crowd in the history of women’s sport in South Africa, among them members of her family, cheering for her and her teammates. She might not even have been alive. Happily, all things are not equal.
Jafta shed many tears talking to the press after the match. Australia’s 19-run win is not what made her cry. “Two months ago, I came out of rehab,” she said. “I’ve got God to thank for my sobriety, and the team have been so supportive. I came out on December 8, and for me to get fit, to play… hectic. What a journey. The person you get on the field is someone who gets on their knees every day. I am not in control of anything. God is always in control.”
Jafta said she descended into drinking too much because of abuse she received online: “Social media, it doesn’t support you. You have a really tough day and people just bullet you. That sent me over the edge. It just wouldn’t stop. I remember coming back from the Commonwealth Games [in August] and everything just broke. I lost who I was.
“My mom [Lumka Jafta] was one of the people who supported me through it, and the team doctor and the management gave me two months’ medical leave. I was in treatment for 56 days. I learnt the best about myself. People are allowed to have their opinions but it doesn’t define who I am.”
Jafta effected no dismissals on Sunday, but she also didn’t drop any catches or botch any stumpings. Neither did she concede a bye. She cracked Megan Schutt through cover point for four with a crisp cut, and had scored nine not out off six when South Africa ran out of road. And through it all she could feel the love of people she knew who were in the stands.
“I can pick up my mom’s and my brother’s voice anywhere. And my cousins. So I knew they were behind me. My mom came to her first ever international against Sri Lanka [the tournament opener at Newlands on February 10]. She knows nothing about cricket but she knows how to cover drive, apparently.”
But Jafta’s story could have unfolded starkly differently: “I was walking away from cricket. October 7 is when I made the decision I was going to go into treatment. I was done. I felt like I had nothing left to give. I was 27. I was done. Now, as a 28-year-old, I’ve got my career ahead of me. The fact that I can say I have a career ahead of me.”
The tears ran freely as she glanced down at the medal hanging around her neck. For some people, it would have been the wrong colour: silver. But she held it in her hand and kissed it. “I am going to wear this, I am going to go to bed with it, I am going to shower with it. Because this wasn’t even possible for me. This is my gold for now.”
Not all things are equal. Sometimes silver is more valuable even than gold.