Having spun an almighty yarn about the demise of Aotearoa's White Ferns after losing their first two games of the Rose Bowl vs Australia, the kiwis then went on to suffer a series sweep in losing the third ODI. The White Ferns put up 231/8 in their 50 overs via knocks of 58 from Sophie Devine, 49 from Amy Satterthwaite and 41 from Katie Perkins, which is a solid total if your team is fizzing with confidence and knows how to win.
This White Ferns doesn't know to win though, or more to the point; they aren't good enough to defend such totals vs Australia. The Aussies started the Rose Bowl slowly and in the final game, they were at their best with the willow as all of their talented top-four batswomen scoring 40+ and their fifth, not out on 35. Australia cruised to victory, losing just 3 wickets and with a couple overs to spare.
And so here we are, pondering how much deeper this White Ferns hole can get. The optimist, or perhaps those out of touch with women's cricket, would suggest that Aotearoa still win international games - against those nations not named England, Australia or India. This story is about a fall from grace though, because it wasn't that long ago, with largely the same group of cricketers, that Aotearoa were competing and defeating the big three nations.
When I write stuff that goes out on a limb in being critical, or exposing some truths that need to be exposed for the greater good, there's a wee bit of apprehension. I only go down that route when there is a clear trend, backed up by facts and that eases any anxieties that may crop up. I don't know if I would say that I was pleased to then see numerous White Ferns players who were involved in the Rose Bowl, offering social media support to the ideas raised in my last and most critical thingy.
Social media support is liking, sharing, retweeting. We've had these instances a few times; most notably when Ross Taylor appeared to endorse our views that he was left out of the Blackcaps T20I team for no logical reason. There are many other examples, like Football Ferns offering such support when the Niche Cache covered their dramas and we are building a bit of a list.
We don't seek it and we do this merely to service kiwi sports fans in Aotearoa. What such support does highlight is that something is fishy and this could be seen as a low key way for kiwi athletes to express their opinions, without having to express their opinions. With that in mind, if I write something about how the White Ferns are falling behind international women's cricket due to a lack of investment from NZC and a few White Ferns offer social media endorsements, one could come to the conclusion that this vibe is real.
Hence, I am even stronger in my belief that the White Ferns and their demise is the biggest sporting issue in Aotearoa at the moment. A surface-level fool would blame the players and it's far more accurate to look at why the players aren't performing, especially when there are clear indicators that the level of professionalism in women's cricket in Aotearoa, simply isn't close to where it should be.
Equality is a trendy topic, as it should be these days and equality should be a norm, not something we fight for. Anyone who celebrates NZC's equality simply isn't paying attention to the facts and it's also weird how other stories are thrown up as we all try to figure out this new *crazy* world of equality, while the White Ferns demise is overlooked. This is a pressing issue, because if women's cricket in Aotearoa was put on a pedastool, the White Ferns could genuinely be the world's best.
Instead, I again use Lauren Down as an example. I feel bad, I don't feel good about highlighting Down's inability to score runs. This isn't about Down as a cricketer, it's more of a convient example of how big the jump is between what has to be considered as amateur domestic cricket in Aotearoa and professional cricket. Unfortunately, my journey in exposing the demise of the White Ferns has coincided with Down making that jump.
There was a minor addition to the Down narrative though, as she hit 107 for Aotearoa vs Australia Governor-General's 11 in a game prior to the third ODI. Down averaged 42.62 in the domestic 50-over competition and this century in Australia is further evidence that the 23-year-old is a talented batswoman. However, Down clearly hasn't been adequately prepared to translate that talent to the international arena; 20 runs @ 6.66avg in the Rose Bowl and a career average of 7.37 after 8inns.
Throughout the summer I have highlighted the struggles of Maddy Green in moving up to international cricket, or how Amelia Kerr's batting prowess in domestic cricket and/or vs Ireland hasn't translated to scoring runs vs top-tier international talent. To a lesser extent, Rosemary Mair's blatant potential shown in the domestic competition (15w @ 15.33avg), wasn't quite as evident in the Rose Bowl as she couldn't add to her 2w in the first ODI. Mair finished with 2w @ 46.50avg for the series.
I whip myself into a spin as I have discussed this performances at length over the summer. The main idea is that as the quality of women's cricket increases dramatically around the world, it has become far more difficult for Aotearoa's young cricketers to move from domestic to international cricket. We can't blame the players, they are doing their best and must instead wonder why domestic cricket isn't close to being professional in Aotearoa, or why there aren't A tours for the women - among a bunch of other issues.
It's not a surprise then, that Katie Perkins with a large amount of international experience was able to return to the international arena after a strong domestic summer to be the third best run-scorer for Aotearoa in the White Ferns, 5th overall. On the one hand we have many examples of youngsters being ushered into the White Ferns and don't succeed, while someone like Perkins with her experience made a solid return. Just an idea and if major changes aren't made to further bolster the foundations of women's cricket in Aotearoa, a crappy - but viable - solution is to rely more on experienced players.
Four of the top-five run-scorers in the domestic competition, have international experience; Natalie Dodd, Kate Ebrahim, Frances McKay and Liz Perry. Like nearly every kiwi women's cricketer not named Suzie Bates, Amy Satterthwaite and Sophie Devine, their international records aren't great, yet based purely on experience, they are better equipped to deal with international cricket. If we know and have immense evidence to show that young players are struggling to make the domestic to international jump, why are young players being selected of those who have more experience and great domestic records?
That idea though and any others along that line of thinking, cover over the big problem. We have been told that women's cricket is moving in the right direction in Aotearoa, yet the evidence suggests otherwise. Of course, progress has been made, but to celebrate that minor progress while the White Ferns slide backwards, doesn't feel right.
Let alone the fact that we should hold ourselves to a far higher standard. Minor progress shouldn't be celebrated and we should expect more. Aotearoa should be pushing the boundaries and breaking all perceived barriers, instead - like in so many other aspects of life - Aotearoa's progressive illusion falls short of my standards, hopefully yours as well.
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Peace and love 27.