The problem came to a head when Lee was asked to complete a fitness test before the team left for South Africa. She asked to do so in her parents’ hometown of Ermelo in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province rather than at their regional base, North West, or at the CSA headquarters in Johannesburg because of the cost of travel. Lee weighed herself and sent the results to the team’s fitness coach, who told her she should also measure the firmness of her skin. She told Lee on the podcast that Lee visited her biokineticist in Ermelo for this test later in the day, but that she didn’t weigh herself again because she had “small fluctuations and margins.” “I won’t do it again because if it’s over [the limit] I wouldn’t be eligible for the England Tour.” She told her biokinetic specialist she recorded her weight herself.
She was later selected for the tour and retested upon her arrival in England in early July, where, according to Lee, “her folds were low but the weight wasn’t anywhere near where I thought it would be.”
“We have to make sure, especially with women, that the things that really count more – like running and skills, all those things that actually contribute to winning rather than people’s looks”
to remove me
The CSA asked Lee for an explanation and made sure that Lee’s weight had not been verified by a biokinetic scientist. In an email to CSA staff on July 5, she told me she knew she should have tested her weight again but didn’t, “because I was afraid it might be different from the morning which might result in me not choosing ‘she’ that was a mistake.” And I should have done it there.”
The next day – July 6 – Lee was notified by email that she was being withdrawn from the team. In a call between CSA and Lee, seen by ESPNcricinfo, CSA also said it will exercise its right to withhold NOC from participating in leagues until it “meets and maintains workload and fitness requirements.” The CSA has since confirmed that it is confident Lee could use six to eight weeks off the national team in June and July before The Hundred to meet the requirements if she returns home. They were also worried about how she looked and wished she could work while at home, too. Prior to the tour, Lee played seven ODI matches in 2022 and scored 81 points, averaging 11.57, including five singles strokes.
However, Lee was worried that she would not obtain an NOC in time for The Hundred, which would have significant financial implications, especially since she had just become a mother. “It was a lot of money,” she said. “We needed it. We are a young family. So I just said I was going to retire.”
Through the CSA, she initially released a statement saying she was ready to focus on the next phase of her career, but days later, she tweeted that national coach Hilton Moring was aware of CSA’s intent to deny her an NOC. It was in response to Mohring’s telling a press conference that he had no knowledge of Lee’s situation.
Lee accused the CSA of failing to offer her any resources to help her lose weight. “I didn’t get any support from the Canadian Space Agency on this,” she said. “They never asked me ‘what do you need, what can we do to help you lose weight.’ That’s something I had to do myself.” The Canadian Space Agency has denied this assertion.
Lee realizes that the CSA “has its rights to do so [withhold the NOC] That’s 100% fine,” but she criticized their physique requirements. She said bracketing an athlete’s running ability along with his skin folds and weight is not a true measure of his cricketing ability and prefers to separate the cardiovascular components from the body components.
“I understand running, if you don’t run, they don’t see that you are fit enough to play which I think is probably fine,” she said. “The important thing that made me feel fit, I did the runs I should have done. Basically, I’m fit to play, and I had this conversation with them before Ireland because I fell in Ireland because of my weight too, and I said to them ‘You drop me because of how I look and how much I am. My weight” and they said “No, we’re giving up on you because you failed your fitness battery.”
I said ‘Yes, but if I broke the fitness battery, what wouldn’t I do?’ I made fitness, running, but not weight. So, you’re dropping me because of the weight. “It breaks me.”
Lee’s gender is the reason the CSA has not released these details publicly, with several officials citing an understanding of the sensitivity of body image issues facing women as a reason to keep it private.
In early 2020, the CSA set up a conditioning camp for Tabriz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, JJ Smots and Sisanda Magalla and targeted, among other things, their weight. At the end of the camp, the four players underwent fitness tests and Magalla was the only one who did not pass. He was later dropped from the ODI team for playing for England and his challenges are well documented. Magalla, despite being the leading one-day domestic cup wicketmaker in the 2021-22 season, will remain unavailable for national selection until he meets the fitness requirements.
Lee asked to reconsider the fitness testing process, especially for women. “We have to make sure, especially with women, that the things that really count more — like running and skills, all those things that really contribute to winning rather than people’s looks.”
Firdous Munda is the ESPNcricinfo correspondent in South Africa