I started crying when I got New Zealand central contract: Eden Carson

Eden Carson could make her debut at CWG 2022 © Getty Images

So much seems to have changed in New Zealand cricket after the first-round exit from the home World Cup early this year. NZC’s announcement of the equal match fee clause for men and women brought some cheers from around the world, while the new central contract list did create an uproar, with it leading to the retirement of batter Amy Satterthwaite. New Zealand arrived for the Commonwealth Games 2022 with a new look squad with as many as five uncapped players. And Eden Carson is one among them.

With six new faces making it to the NZC central contract list for 2022-23, it was time for a new dawn of sorts and Carson couldn’t hold back her tears when the pleasant news came to her.

“I did start crying. Bit of a once in a lifetime experience really; came to me as a shock, I wasn’t really expecting it. It was a few tears there. But now it’s good,” Carson told Women’s CricZone from Birmingham as New Zealand get ready for the global event.

“It’s pretty surreal. I was quite shocked and I didn’t  know what to say. When I did get the call-up, I just froze on the phone. I didn’t say anything. Now since we are here, it just hit me (that) I actually have been contracted for the New Zealand women’s cricket team. [It’s] a bit overwhelming, but I have to get used to it.”

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The central contract and national call-up might have come to Carson as a surprise. However, if you go by her numbers and domestic performances in recent times, the off spinner’s elevation to the international arena was only a matter of time.

Eden Carson is all smiles at CWG squad announcement © Getty Images

Having made her domestic debut during the 2018/19 season as a 17-year-old, Carson has gradually grown as a player to become a key figure in the Otago Sparks lineup. During her second Super Smash edition, she had a five-wicket haul against Central Hinds. But apart from that, Carson struggled in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield (HBJ Shield) and could only pick up four wickets from nine matches at a strike rate of 58.00.

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Carson started playing cricket at a young age. In her own words, there is nothing unusual about her journey. She used to play with her brother and boys and went up the ranks with them. “There weren’t many girls playing cricket where I come from. I was one of the boys.” Then she started playing for her school before eventually reaching Sparks.

But the 20-year-old picked up off spin only four or five years back and her bowling isn’t modeled on anyone as she didn’t have any role models in the art of off spin.

“I only became an off spinner about four or five years ago. I was a little slow swing bowler (before that). I don’t really have an off-spinning influence,” Carson said.

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She then found inspiration in her Sparks’ team-mate Suzie Bates. “With Otago, it would be Suzie Bates. Everyone says Suzie Bates (is an inspiration), but she has helped me a lot. She was there through Under-13 to Under-15. Then to play with her at Otago Sparks and then the White Ferns, it feels like she has been there throughout my whole career.”

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Suzie Bates and Eden Carson celebrate a wicket © Getty Images

Bates was there when she made her debut for Sparks and Bates is still there when she has received a callup to the New Zealand setup, with Sophie Devine and Lea Tahuhu as the other senior players. Some retirements and omissions have meant that there are a lot of youngsters too. By her own admission, Carson was a little bit overawed by the whole thing and the seniors around her.

“It was a bit scary coming in. I was not going to lie. I was a bit scared. But no, they haven’t had anything against us. All the girls have been really welcoming. All the older ones have been helping me out throughout my cricket so far,” she continued.

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The 2021-22 domestic season has been a game changer of sorts for Carson. After winning the Super Smash during the 2016-17 edition, Sparks have been struggling somewhat to add another trophy to their cabinet. Carson emerged as one of the leading performers for the side in their run to the finals of both formats.

In the Super Smash, Carson picked up 17 wickets from 12 matches at an average of 15.82 and an economy rate of 5.84 to help Sparks to the final of the competition.

“I think we came together as a team. With Craig (Craig Cumming, head coach) and the support staff, they helped us to perform the way we did with the training and everything. There have been some great individual performances which helped the team through both formats of the game,” Carson added.

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Sparks couldn’t win the final as they lost badly to Wellington Blaze, with Devine and Maddy Green hammering Sparks’ bowlers. Carson had her worst figures of the season as she went for 50 from her four overs.

But one month later, Sparks were up against Blaze once again; this time in the 50-over format. In the final of the HBJ Shield, Sparks batted first and scored 220 for 9 and although Blaze were missing a lot of big names, they were favourites to make it a double for the season.

Eden Carson in action for Otago Sparks © Getty Images

But Carson had other ideas. In a magnificent spell of spin bowling, she bowled five maidens and gave away only 17 runs from her ten overs. But more importantly, she broke the back of the chase with five wickets. A spell of 10-5-17-5 gave Sparks their first HBJ Shield title since 2013-14.

“That was quite special, especially getting a five-for in the final. I was hoping I would get it, but I wasn’t sure I would. When Marina (Marina  Lamplough) took that catch, I was like ‘Oh well, I got it.’ It was really good; it helped my career a lot to get some good performances under the belt,” she added.

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On June 8, Carson was named in the 15-member squad to travel to Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games 2022. And despite all the overwhelming feelings, Carson has her plans all sorted.

“For me individually, I am keeping to my plans and how I play. Not trying to do too much or anything too special, (just) sticking to my plans,” Carson concluded.

Sticking to her plans is what got Carson to this stage. She might not be looking to do anything special, but once that international debut happens, the mild-mannered off spinner might go on to do something special.