Rachel Priest, the experienced wicket-keeper batter, who hasn't played for New Zealand since the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup 2017, is back in the national reckoning and among the 17 players given a New Zealand national contract for the 2019-20 season.
Along with Priest, Anna Peterson, the all-rounder, made a comeback, while Lauren Down, the right-handed batter, and Rosemary Mair, the fast-bowling all-rounder, earned their maiden contracts.
Priest was left out of the squad after New Zealand's group-stage exit at the World Cup, for what then coach Haidee Tiffen explained as fitness reasons. However, the 34-year-old has been a regular in T20 leagues in England and Australia since then, building on her reputation as a big-hitting top-order batter. She even has a hundred against her name in the Women's Cricket Super League in England, and was an integral part of the 2019 title-winning Western Storm side.
In the Women's Big Bash League in Australia, she has been a part of Sydney Thunder; last season, she was awarded the Alex Blackwell Medal, voted by her team-mates as the best player of the tournament.
Rosemary Mair picks up her first contract and it’s a return for Rachel Priest 🏏 Cheers for popping in for a chat with the team @1NewsSportNZ #whiteferns #cricket #cricketnation pic.twitter.com/B0oWdRoD7O— WHITE FERNS (@WHITE_FERNS) September 26, 2019
Between them, Priest and Peterson have over 200 matches worth of international experience. Kate Ebrahim and Jess Watkin are the ones to miss out from last year's list of contracted players.
Down, 24, made her one-day international debut in the home series against West Indies last year. Mair, 20, got her maiden Twenty20 International and ODI caps earlier this year, against India and Australia respectively.
Down sees her inclusion as an opportunity to develop her game. "The experience I've already had with the White Ferns has been great and I'm looking forward to spending more time in the environment," said the Auckland-born cricketer. "It's a great chance to develop my cricket and I'll be working hard throughout the season and looking to take any opportunities that come my way."
Mair, meanwhile, is eager to enhance her fast-bowling skills, under the guidance of former New Zealand all-rounder Jacob Oram, who is the team's bowling coach. "I want to bowl fast, so my training will be centered around that and working with bowling coach Jacob Oram to get the best out of my action," she said. "I'm excited for what's ahead and this contract gives me the resources and time to really commit and focus my energy on cricket."
The players are currently at a winter training camp at New Zealand Cricket's high-performance centre in Lincoln, as a part of their preparation for the home series against South Africa and the ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020 beginning 21 February in Sydney. Coach Bob Carter believes that the competition within the team will bring out the best in individuals.
"It's great to be involved with the White Ferns and see who will put their hand up and demand selection over the coming month," Carter said. "It's a big few months ahead as we look forward to the South Africa series here in New Zealand, then the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia next year.
"Competition within a team is most certainly a positive for the environment. It's natural when you have professional athletes wanting to improve and play for their country."
Contracted players for 2019-20: Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout, Sophie Devine, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Rachel Priest, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu
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