INTERVIEW: NZ Captain Suzie Bates Talks Wisden, WWT20 Disappointment, The “Treble”, & England 2017

We caught up with White Ferns skipper Suzie Bates just hours before she flew back to New Zealand at the end of a golden English summer.

If you were going to pick a Player of the Season in domestic cricket in England this summer, it would be difficult to look beyond Suzie Bates. Stafanie Taylor might just have pipped her to the Player of the Tournament award in the Kia Super League, but across the whole of the domestic scene Bates has been an unstoppable force – scoring 678 runs, at an average of 42, and taking 30 wickets, at an average of 11. No one else’s all-round domestic numbers come close, and it is no coincidence that Bates flies back to New Zealand with a unique “treble” of trophies in her bag – the County Championship and the T20 Cup with Kent, and the Super League with the Southern Vipers.

This success was, of course, no surprise to the committee at Wisden, who earlier in the year had bestowed their accolade of Leading Woman Cricketer in the World upon the New Zealand captain:

“That was a bit of a shock,” she reflects modestly. “I remember being in Perth at the time – I was there with Charlotte Edwards and the Scorchers – and I said ‘Oh – Wisden are calling me!’ I went into my room and I remember it made me look back on the season – I knew I’d scored a few runs and taken a few wickets but to be recognised like that was pretty special. You don’t go through the season striving for those awards but when they come around you take your time to sit back and reflect.”

With Bates at the helm, and at the peak of her powers, New Zealand travelled to the Women’s World T20 in India in March, happy to carry the mantle of favourites:

“I thought that was our best chance at a World Cup since I’ve been leading the side – we had such good momentum leading into the tournament – we’d beaten Australia in a Twenty20 series, and there was just a really good feel in the group that we were the favourites and we were confident that we had the team to win.”

It wasn’t to be, however, as they fell short by 6 runs in an agonising semi-final defeat to the eventual champions, the West Indies:

“It was just a bit of a shame – a couple of things didn’t quite go our way, and we were on the opposite side of a pretty good West Indies team that hit their straps at the right time.”

“I can live with it, because I thought we went about our cricket how we wanted to, and Twenty20 can be a bit fickle; but if you want to win those tournaments you’ve got to turn up in the big games.”

Following the WWT20, the decision to come to England for the summer was an easy one:

“I just love playing cricket!” Bates says.

And the outcome has been phenomenal, despite a rocky opening weekend in the T20 Cup, when Kent lost both their matches against Lancashire and Berkshire:

“With Lottie [Edwards], Lydia [Greenway] and Tash [Farrant] we joked about getting all 3 trophies – the Twenty20 didn’t look all that bright from the start but we managed to come from the back; then the Vipers campaign – I loved every minute of that; and finally to win the 50 over comp as well makes coming over worthwhile!”

It wasn’t all about having fun though – with a World Cup coming up in England next year, it has been important preparation, getting used to the grounds and the pitches:

“For all the Kiwi girls – some have played in county and some in the Super League – playing and training at the grounds we might play at in 2017 is only going to be of benefit.”

And Bates thinks it might give them a key edge next year:

“A lot of the Australians didn’t come over and hopefully that puts us at a little bit of an advantage. At the World Cup, everyone is going to prepare the best way they think for their team, but I think we’ve had some good time out in the middle here leading up to it.”

That World Cup is obviously New Zealand’s key focus as they enter a domestic summer down south, and the recent announcement of extended contracts – more money for more players – is welcomed:

“We were perhaps a little bit behind England and Australia,” Bates admits. “But we are starting to build to where they are, and I think New Zealand Cricket realise the importance of investing now.”

Even so, tough decisions had to be taken, and clearly none more so than the dropping of Sara McGlashan, after 14 years and over 200 caps:

“It is a bit difficult – you want to look long term but we have a World Cup immediately around the corner and to lose experience like Sara McGlashan…”

Bates tails-off diplomatically, before continuing:

“I know they are looking forward to the future, but with Lottie and Lydia and Macca [McGlashan] in that Vipers team, it proves that in big tournaments you want that experience.”

Nevertheless, confidence remains high for 2017, that New Zealand can make up for the disappointment of the WW20 in 2016, by winning the World Cup in England:

“Can we win it? I think we can! England at home are always going to be tough, and to beat Australia at any World Cup you are going to have to play your best game; but our experienced players have played a lot of cricket and we’ve got a core group that have been in those big matches – if we play our cards right, fingers crossed, we can go all the way!”

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