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'Mandhana and Perry are the hardest batsmen to bowl to today'

"I have a couple of slower balls I started developing after coming to Mumbai last year. I spoke to some of the girls here about how to develop a variation of the knuckleball" Getty Images

New Zealand fast bowler Lea Tahuhu is in Jaipur, playing for the Supernovas in the IPL women's exhibition games. She talks about the new variations she has brought to her bowling, being coached by Jacob Oram, young New Zealand players to watch out for, and what she admires about her country's prime minister.

What's your usual response to being called the quickest pace bowler going around in women's cricket?
"Humbled" would be my response. I wouldn't say I'm the best fast bowler going around, but to be told I bowl at 126-plus kph - although I'm 4kph off Cathryn Fitzpatrick, who, I'm told, was among the fastest ever - and be deemed the fastest among the current crop is a pretty cool tag to have.

India batsman Smriti Mandhana recently told us your Lasith Malinga-like slingy action makes you difficult to read.
Yeah, it certainly is a slingy action, and gets brought up a lot as well, with a lot of comparisons to Malinga. My action, especially later in the 50-over game, allows me to get some reverse swing, which is pretty cool in the women's game, given it's not something that happens often.

In terms of the action being hard to pick, it's just an advantage of what my body naturally does, I suppose. I think I probably always had it, but it's just something that's got noticed with more coverage and footage. And as I've gotten a little bit faster, probably more people are getting aware of it now. You try to get a little bit of height and bounce, but at the same time you've got to use something you've been given.

ALSO READ: Women's T20 Challenge a step towards IPL for Mandhana, Harmanpreet and Co

Which batsman is hardest to bowl to at the moment?
Mandhana has to be right up there. We've had some great battles of late. It's hard to look past Ellyse Perry, given the form she's been in for the past couple of years. Closer to home, [it would be] Suzie Bates; we have some wonderful duels in the nets and in the domestic tournaments around the world.

Who is the most difficult fast bowler to face?
Marizanne Kapp, who recently played her 100th game for South Africa. Her consistency is quite amazing, and obviously, she is quite a fiery character when she's bowling, which always adds to the competition.

What is the one variation you can nail even in your sleep?
The bouncer (laughs). That's my go-to variation. I have a couple of slower balls I started developing after coming to the one-off exhibition game in Mumbai last year.

I spoke to some of the girls here about how to develop a variation of the knuckleball and I worked on that the whole winter and used it at the World T20 and the [home] series against India [in January-February this year]. It's the Indian spinners who helped me with it and I'm quite happy with how it's coming out.

What's the best ball you've ever bowled?
The ball that clipped Meg Lanning's off stump in the WBBL two years ago. I was lucky to have a similar one to Alyssa Healy at the WACA this summer [during the ODI series].

Which of the two rivalries in women's cricket - Australia v England and Australia v New Zealand - has more bite to it?
Probably Australia v England, given it developed off the back of the men's Ashes. Naturally, they are the "arch enemies", "epic rivals" and stuff.

Lanning recently called for more Tests for women. What's your take on the longest format in women's cricket?
Test cricket certainly could be explored more. The multi-format women's Ashes is a fantastic format to use in more series across teams. A lot of our players would love to be able to play Test cricket. On the flip side, you understand that the T20 game has fans involved. The popularity of the format is a big factor. To me, the 50-over format is the best one in which to hone your skills, and it's incredibly important that women play all formats of the game.

Name three youngsters who are likely to be top performers for New Zealand in the future.
I want to say Amelia Kerr, but she doesn't like to seem to be a youngster anymore with all the records she's been breaking. Rosemary Mair, the pace bowler, is doing really well, and Lauren Down, our opening batter in the 50-over game. She's got great mental fortitude to play that kind of a role in 50-over cricket.

Speaking of Kerr, if you, like her, made a record ODI score as she did last year and followed it up with a five-for in the same game, what would you do the next morning?
I'd probably have been sleeping for 12 hours because it requires some effort to bat that long and then bowl. But Amelia probably did ten interviews the next morning after that record and watched Love Island - because she loves it.

ALSO READ: 232*, a nap and 5/17 - all in a day's work for Amelia Kerr

New Zealand will be hosting the 2021 ODI World Cup, but their performance in the last couple of world tournaments has been underwhelming. What needs to be fixed?
New Zealand Cricket have done a review of late. We're going through a lot of things, in terms of putting up a new support staff, getting a new head coach, and we're going through an MoU negotiation. If those things fall into line over the next few months, we can hopefully get the right people in place and do something special. We have a few world-class players, so it's a matter them of them gelling with the other players to make sure we do our best in those tournaments.

What has having Jacob Oram as the bowling coach been like?
He's played for New Zealand, and in the IPL, so he has come in with a lot of experience. He has shared his knowledge on the best way to go about fast bowling. He helps the spinners as well, but for us fast bowlers, to be able to sit down and pick Jacob's brain is priceless. Hannah Rowe has been working particularly closely with him, so to see her reach the next level and realising her potential is amazing.

How different is it playing under your current and former captains, Amy Satterthwaite and Suzie Bates, respectively?
They are two very different people. They seem to work so well together that sometimes it feels like I'm playing under the same captain. Obviously, Amy was Suzie's vice-captain for such a long time that the transition to Amy becoming captain was smooth for us. Nature-wise, Amy is a bit more serious, Suzie a bit more relaxed, even on the field sometimes.

Speaking of leadership skills, which team-mate of yours has the potential to replace Jacinda Ardern as prime minister of New Zealand?
Ooh, that's a tough question (laughs). Katey Martin, I'd say, although she's quite unorganised in theory, but if she had a large group of people to organise things for her so she has the time to think about one thing at a time, then she could be a good candidate.

What do you admire most in Ardern?
She is an absolute rock star. Seems to take everything in her side: from being pregnant as prime minister of our country to dealing with the terrorist attacks we had in Christchurch recently. The empathy she's shown and the way she's led us at a heartbreaking time has been incredible.

There are several dual internationals in your national side. Which other sport would you fancy your chances in as far as representing New Zealand goes?
Soccer, maybe? I played a lot of football growing up, including for Canterbury Under-19s. There came a point when I had to choose one and specialise. I'd love to go back. Sometimes I do play some casual football in the winter, but [I] don't get too many games these days.

What's your favourite football team?
I enjoy watching Cristiano Ronaldo very much, but Manchester United is the team I've always followed.

What are your first and your most recent memories of being a spectator at a cricket match?
First would have been a Canterbury men's game, I suppose. And most recently... I haven't been to a lot of games live lately. I mostly watch them on TV.

Which of your team-mates would you like to have in your pub quiz team?
Maddy Green. She's a banker and has good general knowledge as well.

Tell us about one dressing-room incident that left you in splits
Anything that Sophie Devine does. She's an absolute prankster and jokester in the dressing room. Even two days ago, Harman [Harmanpreet Kaur, the Supernovas captain, at the Women's T20 Challenge] had her gear out ready for the next game. Sophie went over, took one of her shoes and hid it in the toilets. We don't understand Hindi, but the Indian girls went over and were telling on Sophie (laughs).

Do you have a travel tip for those wanting to travel to India?
Always carry electrolytes because you can never keep enough water on board.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
To never give up. You have tough days, especially being a fast bowler in T20 cricket. The ball can fly all over the park, but you have to believe in your processes and do what you're doing.

Describe the kind of a person you are.
Quite opposite to the competitive, fiery demeanour of mine you see on the field. When I'm off the field, I'm very relaxed, sit by the pool and have a lot of jokes with someone like Sophie. When I'm at home, I'm with the new puppy I've got: Fieddy, a golden lab, taking him for a walk - so a pretty laid-back life.