The New Zealand Women's captain, also a basketballer, is one of the classiest batters in the game
Suzie Bates is one of a select band of international sportspersons to have represented her country in two different disciplines. According to her, coming from a sporting culture back home made it easier for her to pursue it from a young age. "I just loved sport, didn't matter what form it was,” she says. “I always wanted to be out on the park playing.”
After starting off with Otago in New Zealand's domestic championship, her talent was quick to be spotted by the national selectors who handed her a debut against India in 2006, when she was just 19.
She impressed immediately, helping New Zealand beat India 4-1 in the One-Day Internationals. In only her seventh ODI innings, Bates announced her arrival on the big stage with a magnificent 122 against India in Chennai in 2007. The same year, she made her Twenty20 international debut against South Africa, and she smashed 62 to help New Zealand to a convincing win. "The first two years played a key role in my development as a cricketer,” she says. “Skill wise, I am better now only because of the hard work I put in back then.”
Since cricket was a family obsession, Bates says she had no option but to fall in love with the sport. "My older brothers were mad about the game, so it was very natural for me to also follow what they did,” she says. “I grew up admiring Chris Cairns and Sachin Tendulkar.”
At the ICC Women's World Cup 2009, where New Zealand finished runner-up to England, she scored 168 against Pakistan in Sydney, the highest ODI score ever by a woman. In the same year, she spearheaded New Zealand's campaign at the ICC World Twenty20 2009, where the team reached the final.
Failure against England in the final not withstanding, her class was too obvious to go unnoticed. "I think the greatest moment in my life was playing at Lord's, a venue which has fascinated me,” she says. “Also, I think to reach two World Cup finals in the same year was a great achievement.”
Apart from cricket, Bates also has a passion for basketball. She first toured with the New Zealand women's basketball team to Japan in 2007, after playing in national age-group competitions. Her skill and temperament were rewarded when she was named in the New Zealand women's basketball squad that took part in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
During the cricket off-season, she also plays in the Women's National Basketball League in Australia. "Since cricket is only played in the summer and basketball in the winters, it wasn't very difficult to prioritise," says Bates.
What makes her a true all-rounder is her inclination towards academics as well. She is a graduate in physical education and marketing from the Otago University. "Right now, I'm completely focussing on my cricket,” she says. “It was difficult to be honest. Initially, my studies suffered because I wasn't able to devote time and attention to it.
"Fortunately, I have made time and complete my education this year. It is very important, and maybe I'll put my educational qualification to use after I finish playing the game because it is important to have an alternate profession.”