Payne retires to leave gap at top of NZ women's order

Another cornerstone of experience in the New Zealand women's cricket team, the TelstraClear White Ferns, Nicola Payne has decided to retire from international cricket.

Payne made her announcement at her St Albans club prizegiving evening in Christchurch last night.

A double-international, having played for the Netherlands for 10 years before qualifying for New Zealand in 2000, she has played 65 One-Day Internationals and in the recent World Series of Women's Cricket played at New Zealand Cricket's High Performance Centre (HPC) at Lincoln University she achieved her career highest score of 93 in a memorable performance against India.

However, the cost of that innings was a hamstring problem and that was just one of the warnings the 33-year-old had received that the time was right to think about her playing career. She had also had other niggles, including calf muscle problems and they made it harder to try and maintain fitness levels.

"I've had a good run of 14 years. I had 10 years with the Netherlands after my debut at the 1988 World Cup and then four years with New Zealand.

"Why wait until you get dropped?" she asked.

Payne said that people tended to forget that the women's game was still very much amateur and players still worked for 40 hours a week as well as doing their preparation for cricket.

"The time contribution is a big thing and cricket is something that you can't do by halves," she said.

"I felt like the time was right. I'm looking forward to doing some other things instead of training every day."

One of those things will be devoting more time to her coaching of cricket.

That will allow her to adopt some of the strategies for herself that she has observed under New Zealand coach Mike Shrimpton.

"I've always played under Mike and have learnt a lot from him, not only as a player, but as a coach.

"It is great the way he can analyse a game and he is always looking at ways to improve performance. He has done a fantastic job," she said.

Payne said New Zealand Cricket's approach to the women's game had also been very supportive and the HPC at Lincoln had become something of a home for women's cricket.

"It is a fantastic venue."

As far as women's cricket is concerned the Bert Sutcliffe Oval at the complex will be a special place because of the winning of the CricInfo Women's World Cup. Payne wasn't on the field but was part of the team for the tournament.

"I didn't feel any less involved by not being on the field. It was a really special experience and what we had in that team was special," she said.

Her highest score earlier this year was a personal highlight, even if retirement now meant she could not achieve the goal of scoring a century for New Zealand.

The benefit of the World Cup success was still being felt with what could be called a trickle-down effect as players from the New Zealand sides returned to their provinces and clubs to pass on the knowledge they had received. That was important, she said, because it helped give a much better understanding of the game.

While New Zealand would always struggle against Australia the quality of players was coming through and she felt support needed to be given to younger batsmen.

"It takes longer for batsmen to develop and so long to understand batsmanship, how to build an innings, the need to have patience and determination, even in the one-day game because it was still crucial to a solid performance."

Payne had made her decision because it still offered enough time to get a new opener before the next World Cup in 2005.

"There are some great opportunities now for people to put their hands up, but it is important for them to feel they are being backed," she said.