A new coach and new contracts usher in a delightful period of cricketing antics for Aotearoa's White Ferns, with World T20 and Women's World Cup looming on the horizon. Excitement is present, as is optimism that Aotearoa can re-claim it's position among the world's best women's cricket teams and with that excitement, kiwi cricket fans should be aware that something needs to change.
17 ladies have earned NZC contracts and NZC love to pump their own tires about all they are doing for women's cricket in Aotearoa, although the rippling effects haven't found their way to the White Ferns just yet. The White Ferns have endured a niggly slide in women's cricket, falling behind the likes of Australia, India and England which isn't all bad considering the various levels of resources involved. The issues stem from where the White Ferns sat two years go and how other nations are now closing the gap on Aotearoa; the White Ferns need to match the growth of women's cricket.
Taking the national contracts from 15 to 17 may help this as it gives more players the opportunity to operate as true professionals. New coach Bob Carter hasn't got too crazy in dishing out his first batch of contracts, promoting batswoman Lauren Down and seamer Rosemary Mair after they made their White Ferns debuts over the summer. Carter has also re-called Rachel Priest from her *forced* T20 mercenary excursion, along with Anna Peterson.
These contracts are only really funky for the players as they get the moola, while breaking down the contracts needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Down and Mair both played for the White Ferns without contracts and Peterson also played multiple games for Aotearoa without a contract last summer, which means that we will likely see others creep into contention without a White Ferns contract as the domestic one-day competition fires up in mid-November.
I've talked about Down's fortunes with the White Ferns a fair bit recently, primarily as an example of how difficult the jump is between domestic and international cricket. This is amplified for young kiwi wahine, who have little support in making such a leap and unfortunately for Down, this saw her wrap up her debut summer with an ODI average of 7.37 from nine games. Mair didn't do much better either with the ball, finishing with 46.50avg from three ODI games and now they both have a chance to develop as full-time cricketers.
Peterson is one of the three best spinners in Aotearoa, along with Leigh Kasperek and Amelia Kerr. An ODI average of 17.85 and T20I average of 25.76 suggest Peterson is a low key champion, especially as the younger, more fancied spinners get more attention and this dynamic is kinda perfect as all three will be hunting for game time ahead this summer ahead of World T20.
As for Rachel Priest, after being dropped from the White Ferns and exploring the world of T20 franchise cricket, Priest is back around the White Ferns. Priest finished fourth in runs at this year's Women's T20 Super League competition (Suzie Bates was 12th) and she last played an ODI in July 2017, which has seen Bernadine Bezuidenhout emerge as a factor in the wicket-keeping ranks along with Katey Martin. That means Priest won't waltz back into White Ferns cricket and we may only see her dabble in T20I, while Martin feels like the likeliest candidate to operate as leading ODI wicket-keeper.
Two players have missed out on selection in Kate Ebrahim and Jess Watkin. Watkin finished up as the 2nd best White Ferns bowler at last year's World T20 and was 5th in women's one-day bowling last summer, making her a decent candidate to work her way into the White Ferns team from outside the contract list - assuming she is healthy etc.
Ebrahim's omission points to a greater narrative, that I'll throw up cautiously given I have consistently discussed the issues in moving from women's domestic cricket in Aotearoa to international cricket; Ebrahim was 2nd in one-day runs last summer, none of the top-four are contracted White Ferns. Similar vibe in T20 as Bezuidenhout is the only batswoman in the top-four run-scorers who has a White Ferns contract.
You could also view this as a solid sign of brewing depth in women's cricket as Natalie Dodd (1st in one-day runs), Ebrahim (2nd) and Francis Mackay (4th) have all previously played for the White Ferns. Mackay also finished 1st in T20 runs, perhaps making her the best batswoman in Aotearoa which resulted in little White Ferns reward.
Anlo van Deventer also finished 3rd in one-day runs, in her debut campaign where she averaged 85.66/91.45sr across 10 innings. How van Deventer develops this summer will be an intriguing yarn to keep tabs on as she was the breakout batter from last summer and she will be eager to back it up this summer. As for Ebrahim; she finished 2nd in one-day runs and 7th in T20 runs but lost her contract?
The one-day competition starts in mid-November, then Super Smash gets under-way in mid-December before South Africa arrives in mid-January. This offers domestic players the chance to dominate the domestic competitions and put pressure on those who have earned NZC contracts, which has me pondering how the White Ferns squad for that series vs South Africa will look. I suspect a few domestic players will be fizzing to try and demand selection prior to World T20.
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Peace and love 27.