Deemed as one of the most destructive batters in the world who on her day can inflict inconceivable damage to the opposition, the White Ferns' skipper Sophie Devine is a woman on a mission. The mission to embellish her trophy cabinet with a World Cup that has eluded her thus far and a World Cup on home soil presents her with an opportunity of a lifetime to achieve the same.
As a batter, unlike some who try to wear down the opposition by attrition, Devine has always been the one who annihilates oppositions by brute force and pounds them till they capitulate. She is one of the few batters in women's cricket who are crowd pullers because of their viscerally appealing stroke play.
Having played as an opener for a considerable period of time, Devine has now taken up the mantle of a finisher. It is not a role that comes naturally to her but being the skipper of the side, she realizes that an experienced campaigner like her needs to be there in the middle right till the end for two reasons. Firstly, to stem an early damage and secondly to play the role of the enforcer.
From a rookie fast bowler to becoming one of the game's most revered allrounders and now the captain of the side, Devine has come a long way in her career spanning almost 16 years. She has been an inspiring leader ever since she took over after Amy Satterthwaite's hiatus in mid-2020. She looks firm in her approach leading into the World Cup and is willing to do everything in her capacity to emulate the heroics of the Emily Drumm's side of 2000.
In an enthralling chat with RevSportz, Devine talked about her leadership role in the side, how the White Ferns are gearing up for the upcoming World Cup, her perspective regarding the Women's IPL, and so much more.
Q: World Cup on home soil, how big is that, and how are you looking forward to that?
It's a really interesting time for women's cricket and certainly for the New Zealand women's cricket team 'the White Ferns', to be playing a World Cup at home, it certainly doesn't happen very often, and it is probably the last opportunity I'll get to play a World Cup at home. There is certain amount of pressure that comes with it of playing at home but it is something we are all relishing as a group. To be able to play in home conditions is obviously we are all comfortable and confident on. I think we have got a great group starting to build together and hopefully be there at the business end of the tournament.
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Q: If we talk about Sophie Devine, the leader, you've got a great team, some highly talented cricketers, whether it's Amy Satterthwaite, Amelia Kerr, or Suzie Bates. There is a lot of talent in the side, but the coveted trophy still eludes you. What is your philosophy as a leader?
I think, for me, it's really about being comfortable and expressing who you are as a person. And certainly, for us, it's about making sure that we care a lot about you as a person - not just as a cricketer - and when you feel comfortable in an environment, I think that's when you perform your best. We certainly try and encourage people to just go out there and play your natural style of cricket, to play fearless cricket and to go out and enjoy it; remember why they started playing cricket in the first place. I know certainly as a young girl, I just loved hitting balls and bowling balls in the cricket net for hours and hours. So, it's really important for us as a group that we go back remembering why we played the game of cricket; it is something we want to continue through not just to the World Cup but moving forward as a White Ferns group is going back to why we play cricket.
Q: In your case, you mentioned hours and hours of playing balls, but it was hockey as well; you played at the very highest level. You were an extremely talented person from a young age. Why cricket? How did that happen, and did you ever imagine you would end up captaining the White Ferns? Your cabinet is always almost complete except for that one World Cup trophy.
I think it's something in the water in New Zealand where you as kids are encouraged to play as many sports as possible. For me, it was always cricket that stood out and hockey as well. My dad and my brother were both really passionate cricketers, so I'd always follow them around on the weekend and see if I can try and sneak a game on with their team. So it's certainly been in my blood for a long, long time, and I think it is really unique. It's a very individual sport but played within a team setting, which brings its different challenges but also opportunities to perform and help your team win. Look, I certainly love cricket, and as you say, we sort of are missing a few pieces of silverware, and a World Cup (50 over trophy) would certainly go nicely in the cabinet, but we know that there is a lot of hard work that has to go into that. It's going to take a lot of planning and hard work, and execution of skills and plans to make sure that we can be there.
Q: BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has said that in the next three to four months, the BCCI will be moving forward with the Women's IPL with a lot of certainties. What are your thoughts on that?
Oh, incredible boost. I think we've all seen the impact that the WBBL (Women's Big Bash League) has had in Australia and around the world. And the standard of cricket and the women's game has improved because of that tournament. I think the next genuine step is for the WIPL (Women's Indian Premier League) to kick off, and I think it's certainly a really exciting prospect. We all know the impact the men's IPL has had over the last 10-11 years and the increased viewership in the game. The ability to bring in the world's best players alongside the Indian players is just something that I know speaking with some of the male players; they absolutely love that opportunity. So it's really positive to hear that the BCCI is moving towards that because I know speaking with a few of the Indian female players as well as they absolutely want to be able to have a competition of their own.
Q: You have been around for quite some time now and have played with Jhulan Goswami and Mithali Raj, the flag bearers of Indian cricket. What are your thoughts on them?
They have been absolute stalwarts of the Indian cricket team and women's cricket as well. For Mithali, I think she has been playing for over 20 years, and it's incredible. It would be amazing to speak to her about the growth of the women's game and how she has seen it evolve during her time. I think Jhulan is one of the loveliest people I have ever met in cricket circles, and I have certainly been really honoured to have shared the changing room on a number of occasions, and I think her impact on women's cricket is going to be everlasting. To think that she's still bowling the way that she is, having been around for so long, it's just so much credit to her, and the dedication she has to fast bowling is outstanding.
Q: Do you think the World Cup will give a boost to the women's game?
Oh yeah, absolutely, I think it will. The exposure that we've had recently, the India versus Australia T20 World Cup final (2020) at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground), where 86 thousand people were watching that game, just goes to show that there really is an audience for women's cricket. And I certainly think that we keep taking the right steps to move this game forward. I'm really excited to be able to show my beautiful New Zealand, my home country, to the rest of the world, and what we've got, and hopefully we can put on a really good product with what happens on the park as well.