July 8, 2015

'I feel a bit cheated that I haven't been able to play a Test'

New Zealand women's captain Suzie Bates on the state of the game in her country, the new T20 leagues, the ICC Championship, and more

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Captain since 2011: has it been a long journey already or still a way to go?
It has been an interesting journey and there have been a lot of challenges. I feel in the last couple of years I've really grown as a captain and the team is really coming on, having two crucial ICC Championship wins against England and India, but the World Cup in 2017 is my aim as a leader and getting this group in the right form for the tournament.

We've heard recently about the Women's Big Bash League coming up, and the ECB has announced a new league next year. What will they bring to women's cricket immediately?
It's a really exciting time for women's cricket. I've been fortunate enough to play in Perth for the last three seasons, and that initially was just off my own bat. I wanted to play more cricket and the New Zealand domestic season is pretty short and I knew the coach over in Perth and took the opportunity to play over there, and there's been other Kiwi girls that have done that as well, because [Australia's] competition is so strong.

I know the aim of the Big Bash is to make it a global competition and get the best players from all around the world. It's really exciting now that the girls and teams are buzzing about the opportunity, just being able to learn off players from other countries. I now had the opportunity to play with Jhulan [Goswami] and Mithali [Raj] at the World XI versus MCC game, and we chatted just about how cricket works in their country. It's a really exciting time. You never know, an IPL one day for the women will also be pretty cool.

"The way you can learn from the longer format, having to bowl longer spells, you learn batsmanship and patience with the ball. It's something I've always pushed at NZC"

The two leagues will cover two different hemispheres and two summers. Are these enough for now?
I guess as a semi-professional cricketer you always want more, but I know you don't want to have too much all at once. It's still not fully professional all around the world, so it would make it difficult for some players [to participate]. I think it's a good start with the Big Bash, and Cricket Australia have done a really good job with competitions in the past. If other countries want to jump on board in the future I'm sure there'll be lots of players keen to play all year around if the competitions are strong. Yeah, I'd love to play in India and I do love touring here, and it's always a different challenge to playing in the northern hemisphere and even playing in Australia and at home - just such different conditions.

Do you think more needs to be done at the grass roots by cricket boards or governing bodies?
I guess it's catch-22. I think that's a bit of danger of these competitions - that the top six or seven players in the White Ferns are going to be well looked after. We've got ten contracts, so most of those girls will be contracted, they will be playing domestic cricket, hopefully picking up Big Bash contracts and also playing an ICC Championship on top of that, so they are going to be getting the best cricket available, playing all year round in different conditions in different competitions. But for New Zealand in particular, the worry is the next year down they miss out on those opportunities, and perhaps our domestic game isn't quite strong enough to prepare them for international cricket.

So it is a fine balance because I know New Zealand Cricket want to fully support the Big Bash League and they want to make sure that the White Ferns are prepared for the ICC Championship. But we do have to look at the grass roots as well and not forget about the players coming through, because there is a danger of making the gap bigger. I don't know what the answer is but I know for me as a senior player the opportunities that I have are a lot different to my players for the Otago Sparks.

The contracts given by NZC are still semi-professional, whereas some of the other boards have fully professional contracts. Does that mean your team is not as prepared as the others because you have to juggle two professions?
Once again it's a catch-22. We've been really fortunate the last couple of seasons to have these 10 contracts. Growing up as a cricketer, I never saw it to be a profession. It was not just a hobby, but I had to have a career on the side to support myself. And I don't think that was a bad thing - having to go to university, even though I wanted to be playing cricket and other sports. We've got a police officer, Kaite Perkins; a vet, Amy Satterthwaite; we've got teachers. And it's quite nice having those balanced people in the side. I think it's going to change pretty soon because it's going to be hard to maintain a career.

"[In India] it's about taking shots out of your game that you can't play over here… crunching my game down, rather than playing all the shots you can play and getting out being a bit loose" © ICC/Solaris Images

I know England and Australia, in particular, have really made some massive strides in becoming fully professional. The ECB and Cricket Australia have really got behind them, but that's also on the back of some pretty good performances and World Cup wins. As a New Zealand side, we can start demanding a few more contracts or a bit more money if we can start performing on the world stage and winning World Cups, which we haven't done recently. It's a lot easier to ask for more support when you are getting wins on the board.

These leagues will help players financially, but that's more for T20s and for 50-over matches. What about Tests? You haven't played a Test at all, and New Zealand haven't played one in 11 years. Yes! Probably as I've got older I feel a bit cheated that I haven't had the opportunity to play in a Test, and I know speaking to Jhulan, Charlotte Edwards, I know we are a bit older and we've been around and Test matches are the pinnacle of cricket even though in women's cricket it has not been emphasised. I just think that the way you can learn from the longer format, being out in the middle for a longer period of time, having to bowl longer spells, you just learn batsmanship and patience with the ball.

It's something I've always pushed at New Zealand Cricket, and I know the argument is they want to push T20 because that's a spectacle and [helps in] promoting the game. But I think we have managed to push T20 and the game has grown so much and the girls are now starting to be more attacking with every facet of the game, so I think Test match cricket would be more exciting to watch now than perhaps it was in the past.

If there was to be something that needs to be part of the women's schedule regularly over the next five or ten years, what would you pick?
I do really like the format of the women's Ashes - having the one four-day match, the three ODIs and the three T20s. I think that's a really nice balance of all formats. And I think the addition of the ICC Women's Championship has been huge for the women's game globally, and it's a really exciting tournament to be a part of. But if we could have a Test match in each series as well, that would be pretty exciting.

We are touring South Africa next year, which we've actually never done. We've never toured South Africa or played against South Africa outside of World Cups, and to learn about their conditions - playing in a Test match, there's no better way to do it.

"Batting is one of the most mentally challenging things that I've ever done. You've just got to get over those mental hurdles that you can create in your own mind, and once you do that you have more success"

We don't want to necessarily copy the Ashes but they've got their format right and I know the quality and depth in their teams probably support their format, but hopefully women's cricket can get there in five to ten years.

Is there something men's cricket has that women's cricket doesn't, and you're happy without?
I still wonder why it's not five days. It's a bit like women's tennis where they play three sets in grand slams, and I think it's a bit traditional, that maybe women couldn't handle five sets or five days is too long, but I think why not have a five-day Test match? Other than that, probably an IPL would be the one addition I'd just love to be a part of, India being so fanatical about cricket, and promoting the game over here and showing T20 cricket off would be pretty special.

For a long time New Zealand Women made a lot of World Cup finals, won the trophy in 2000, but the recent performances haven't been as good. You could not make the semi-finals in the 2014 World T20, were whitewashed by West Indies last year, and you got a 2-1 lead against England but could not capitalise in the series after that. What's going wrong?
Yeah, it hurts a little bit to look back at the World Cups. I was a part of all three; that was really disappointing. We took a hard look at ourselves after that. No one was really professional at that time. We had a pretty strong team in both T20s and one-dayers and we just couldn't stand up in the finals; we didn't perform. After that I don't really know what to put it down to. We just haven't been consistent and that's not an excuse, but we have had a lot of changes since Gary Stead, he was there for four years and that's when we made some finals, and since then we've had three coaches, which, like I said, is not an excuse, but it made it difficult to have consistency and the players that have been picked, players feeling comfortable in their positions… I guess they've looked over their shoulders because they've been in favour with one coach but not with another. We created a culture and then a new coach has come in and that coach has different ideas, so it's adapting to that, and I guess it has taken a toll on certain players. As a captain as well it has been tough, and we probably haven't dealt with it as well as we could have as a team, and it's dragged out onto the field, and we've been able to use it as an excuse, which never helps.

Against England we started really well and we were so excited about going up 2-1 and perhaps got a little bit complacent, and they got better and better and then we didn't improve. Over here it's our goal to not let that happen. And going to the West Indies, our first series of the ICC Championship, we were underprepared and we came off a winter and didn't give ourselves enough time over there for the first game. They played really well - their batters [Deandra] Dottin and [Stafanie] Taylor we couldn't get out and that series was over and done with before we had even been able to play our shots, that's what it felt like.

"Growing up as a cricketer, I never saw it to be a profession. It was not just a hobby, but I had to have a career on the side to support myself. And I don't think that was a bad thing" © ICC

The last couple of years we haven't done as well as we should have, and I really think with [coach] Haidee Tiffen on board - she's there until the World Cup, which is exciting for us - we're starting to get a bit more consistency with our support staff, our players are starting to get more confident in their positions, and I think it will get better from here, so fingers crossed.

India has been a great hunting ground for you, though it's said that players from outside the subcontinent take time to adjust to the conditions and turning tracks. You have always scored runs here, and you were the leading run scorer in the 2013 World Cup as well.
I remember the first time I toured here, and I think it was 2007 for a quadrangular series, and we'd talked about the slow, turning wickets. And I just remember every time you got the ball through the field it was four. You didn't have to run. It suited me, you got value for your shots. The wickets do turn a bit more than at home but I feel you should use your feet, which I've always done, and you get on top of the ball and you can take the wicket out of play a little bit.

This tour, though, the wickets haven't been as good as the ones I've played at in the World Cup and before that, so it's just about taking shots out of your game that you can't play over here. Sometimes that actually helps me crunching my game down, rather than playing all the shots you can play and getting out being a bit loose. Here it's a few shots and keeping it really simple, which probably makes me bat for longer.

How do you prepare for big matches or playing against big teams? You once said that playing basketball has helped you a lot physically and mentally. The physical aspect is obvious, but how do the two sports compare in terms of the mental aspect?
Yeah, they don't really cross over. Lots of girls play cricket and hockey back home, or cricket and soccer. And with basketball, apart from the fitness side, I think any sport where you're put under pressure, you play in big matches, you have to learn how to deal with the nerves, deal with self-doubt, and I know going to the Olympics [2008] I really thought I didn't belong there. I'd played basketball for New Zealand and here I was playing against the USA and China and the girls I had watched on TV, thinking they were awesome athletes. I had to get over that to compete, so it was all about the mental application of just believing in your ability, and that definitely helps in cricket. Batting is one of the most mentally challenging things that I've ever done, and you've just got to get over those mental hurdles that you can create in your own mind and once you do that you have more success. It doesn't just happen overnight, it's a long process.

You're coming back to India for the World T20 next year. How are you and the team planning to approach that?
This tour going on now before the World T20 is really going to help us, and being able to train in these conditions for a month, the heat, which coming from New Zealand - and Dunedin in particular - is a bit of the shock to the system. We'll just have that extra experience under our belts of playing on Indian wickets so close to the tournament. A number of players haven't been here before; they have now experienced that and hopefully it won't be such a shock or so new to us come the World T20.

We've always had a reasonably strong T20 side. [It's just about] being able to perform under pressure situations - the White Ferns haven't been able to cross that hurdle. I think with Haidee on board, though, this team could be part of something special, and we're looking forward to the next two World Cups that we have a chance to do pretty well in.

Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 10, 2015, 4:02 GMT

    Unfortunately NZ cricket does not have the resources, nor (I suspect) the will to give our women more opportunities at the international level. If you are not England or Australia then you will not have the players able to take time out to prepare properly for longer form matches. Meanwhile, the slide in our women's team over the past two or three years has been dramatic, partly to do with players leaving the game, but also there is an element of mismanagement. Unfortunately keeping things as they are is not going to work. White Ferns management need to take a hard look at themselves, as far as preparation for this series, and team strategy and tactics. I suspect that there may be some significant changes to come. If players have been under performing, then there is no reason to keep out some of the up and coming players that we have.

  • Jonathan on July 8, 2015, 21:11 GMT

    As a Test match fan, I feel this is an area where women's cricket could really do with making more strides. Looking at the LO forms of the game, women's cricket obviously has less of what boards think that audiences want to see - big-hitting high-scoring matches. But a Test isn't like that. A Test can still be about perseverance, good bowling, playing each ball on its merits.

    So why do women play so much more LO cricket at the highest level than Tests? Bank balances, I presume, but it still seems daft.

  • Anubhav on July 8, 2015, 20:12 GMT

    Its always nice to hear from a professional sportsperson.

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