Despite what many would have you think, there doesn't appear to be a bigger issue in kiwi sport than the demise of Aotearoa's White Ferns. Having lost the first two Rose Bowl ODI's and thus lost the series vs Australia, the downward trend of the White Ferns continues and aside from sparks in T20 internationals vs India, the blatant truth is that the White Ferns got torched in England last year, had a crappy World T20, suffered a series defeat to India in Aotearoa and have now been further exposed by Australia.
There are a few kiwi sports-related issues that sports fans and those group-think folk who love a bit of outrage, have voiced their rather meaningless opinions about in recent times. This is why I find it so strange that there isn't more noise being made about the White Ferns and greater spotlight put on why they are struggling to keep up with international cricket. The biggest issue in kiwi sport isn't exactly the plight of the White Ferns, one must always dig deeper and it is there you'll find a complete lack of resources - the type of resources that lead to improvement as other nations pour resource into their women's cricket set ups.
The bulk of any criticism towards NZC should revolve around their support for women's cricket and the priority of making the White Ferns better, thus building up the levels below. I went down this route a wee bit after the India ODI series, coinciding with Peter McGlashan making some extremely valid points about the resources and support on offer to female cricketers in Aotearoa. McGlashan deserve plenty of credit in that regard and after losing two games vs Australia, the gap between the White Ferns and their top-tier opponents looks even bigger.
Aotearoa came close in game one, dismissing Australia for 241 and then failing to pounce on a strong position to fall just short with a wicket in hand (236/9). Wickets were shared around the bowlers, with Sophie Devine the best of the bunch via her 3w @ 3.20rpo in 10ov Amy Satterthwaite led her crew wth 92 runs, along with 48 from Katie Perkins. Satterthwaite and Perkins took the Ferns from 89/4 in the 21st over, to 188/5 in the 42nd over and the kiwis should have won the game from there. Instead they fizzled.
Game two saw Aotearoa do another sound job with the ball, restricting Australia to 247/7 with wickets again shared around apart from the new ball pair of Lea Tahuhu and Rosemary Mair. Amelia Kerr took 3w @ 4.28rpo in 7ov is currently the best kiwi bowler, closely followed by Devine; both are averaging below 20 in the Rose Bowl.
The White Ferns were then however rolled for 152, with Devine top-scoring with 47 and Satterthwaite battling for 37. Same old story of no support for best kiwis and as we can't expect the big-three to dominate all the time via opposition executing their plans, or a form slump that can ravage any cricketer, the lack of team-wide batting support is again crucial to the White Ferns fortunes ... or lack of.
Perkins stood up admirably in game one, having taken the middle order spot of Maddy Green but couldn't back in up in game two. Katey Martin has 25 runs in 2inns, Lauren Down has 19 runs in 2inns, Kerr has 18 runs in 2inns and as Suzie Bates is suffering a slump (19 runs in 2inns), the lack of batting support is further exposed.
Good White Ferns form prior to this demise came via their world-clas cricketers playing as such. Overall, these performances have continued along the same plateau for Bates, Sattertwhaite and Devine, yet the quality of their opposition has increased, thus making it harder for the big-three to drag their team to victory.
Thus, I have turned my focus to the supporting cast during this 12 month period of crappy results. Perkins has experience and this was evident in her game one contribution. Martin has international experience and will find some runs sooner rather than later, but having averaged 40/95.23sr in the domestic 50-over competition, the gap between domestic and ODI cricket has been to great for immediate translation.
Just as the issue was most evident with Green and Holly Huddleston, neither of whom have played in the Rose Bowl thus far, it's the young players who are stepping up from domestic cricket to the international arena who lack the preparation to step up. Not just step up once they suss it out; Green has 27 ODI games and two 50+ scores (20.27avg), while Huddleston's 33-game career average of 23.32 doesn't come from anything she has done recently given that Huddleston has 7w in her last 10 ODI's and wicket-less in six of those games.
These fringe/younger players can't make the jump from domestic to international cricket. Even for the anamoly in Amelia Kerr, she's been able to make the jump with the ball and not so much with the bat, despite lots of noise about her all-round abilities. Granted, we've seen those batting skills against Ireland, but Kerr averages 7 vs Australia, 8.33 vs England, 20.50 vs India, 21 vs Pakistan and 7 vs West Indies.
This brings me to young gun Lauren Down, who scored 341 runs @ 42.62avg/80.04sr in the domestic 50-over competition. In 7inns, Down has 58 ODI runs @ 8.28avg/49.15sr and those stats are nek level in terms of highlighting the gap between domestic and international cricket.
To a lesser extent (small sample), Rosemary Mair took 15 wickets @ 15.33avg/3.51rpo in the domestic competition, which has translated to 2w @ 33avg/5.07rpo in her 13 ODI overs. As is often the case, her first outing was alright as Mair was largely an unknown and she took her 2w in that first Rose Bowl game. The second game, saw Mair go for 5.16rpo in 6ov and now I'm left wondering whether Mair will fall into the same pattern as Down, Green and Huddleston.
Unfortunately, I'll take this a step further and explore the work of Leigh Kasperek. Unfortunate because Kasperek has been one of my favourite White Ferns of that now distant 'exciting era' and her ODI career numbers reflect this; 18.64avg/3.75rpo. Kasperek took 1w @ 84avg/4.20rpo in 20ov vs India, playing all three games. Kasperek was dropped after going wicket-less @ 4.55rpo in the first Rose Bowl game, making way for Anna Peterson.
Kasperek's numbers are still pretty good, but she hasn't improved. Since July 1st 2018, Kasperek has played against the best ODI teams (three games vs England and India, one Rose Bowl game) and her career average of 18.64 balloons out to 29.33 in her last seven ODI's.
In the same period, Bates' ODI career average of 42.71 dips to 20.62.
Whatever you want to take away from this, it's not cool. The White Ferns as a team have got worse, numerous individuals have either hit a plateau or got worse and new/fringe players have consistently shown an inability to perform at the international level.
This is so widespread and across the different White Ferns layers, that it's fairly obvious where the blame should be directed. Women's cricket around the world is moving in one direction, yet in Aotearoa it's not moving. People and mainstream media love to celebrate minor steps towards equality, yet compared to other nations, Aotearoa's progress is nothing but slow. Now, this is having a direct impact in on-field performances and thus, the plight of the White Ferns and women's cricket in Aotearoa is the most pressing sporting issue in Aotearoa.
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Peace and love 27.