Wisden 2016 - Leading woman cricketer in the world

Suzie Bates

Back in 2011, Suzie Bates faced a crossroads. Cricket or basketball? White Ferns or Tall Ferns? She had played both from a young age, and represented New Zealand at basketball at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. For a time, she balanced the two. But, in July 2011, the White Ferns offered her the captaincy - a full-time commitment. "I took a while to decide," she recalls.

We should all be glad she chose cricket. Bates has been making waves ever since her international debut in March 2006 - not least with a glorious 168 off 105 balls against Pakistan in the 2009 World Cup semi-final - and one of the marks of her captaincy has been the continued flow of runs.

She was Player of the Tournament at the 2013 World Cup, and was later named the ICC's one-day Player of the Year. Her unbeaten 94 off 61 balls against Pakistan during the 2014 World Twenty20 was the highest score by a New Zealand woman in the format; and she finished 2015 fourth on the all-time list of run-scorers in Twenty20 internationals. She is also a useful medium-pace death bowler, and back in 2014 was selected to captain the Rest of the World against MCC Women at Lord's, which she considers the highlight of her career. It's little wonder she was one of the top overseas picks for the inaugural Women's Big Bash League in Australia in 2015-16.

At 5ft 8in, with an athletic body honed on the basketball court, Bates spent 2015 consolidating her status as one of the power hitters of the women's game, finishing the year just behind her opening partner Rachel Priest on the 50-over runs list, with 585 at 48. She made 258 while being dismissed only twice during the 5-0 one-day whitewash of Sri Lanka in November, and 69 off 58 balls in the second of the three Twenty20 games against them. Thirteen cheap one-day wickets underlined her importance. Her favourite moment, though, came when New Zealand won two of their three ICC Women's Championship matches against England in February; in the first of them, she hit her sixth ODI century. "It was a good few days," she grins.

Born in 1987 in Dunedin, Bates learned the game in the backyard with her two older brothers. Much of her early club cricket was spent alongside boys, though she was talent-spotted during a national competition for the Otago Girls' High School. By the time she was 15, she was representing Otago Sparks in the national women's league.

While Bates now considers herself a full-time cricketer - in April 2013 she was among the first New Zealand women to earn a professional contract - she also works as an ambassador for the New Zealand Olympic Committee, visiting schools to talk about her sporting experiences. "I love basketball and I do miss it," she says. "But, with the Big Bash and English Super League and a full international schedule, I want to make the most of my career as a cricketer. With where the women's game is heading, it's really exciting to be part of it."

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