Valuable lessons learnt for Kiwi stars from playing two sports
• New Zealand captain Suzie Bates played basketball at the Olympic Games in 2008
• Sophie Devine played hockey for New Zealand
To represent your country in one sport is seen as an incredible achievement but to do it in two different sports is almost unheard of, unless you’re from New Zealand, that is.
The White Ferns have a pair of key players in this ICC Women’s World Cup who have experience of playing at the highest level in two other sports.
Captain Suzie Bates, her country’s second highest run scorer, was part of the New Zealand basketball team that competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, while Sophie Devine represented the Black Sticks hockey team.
“There must be something in the Kiwi water as Suzie Bates played basketball for New Zealand as well,” Devine said.
“Playing both taught me a few different things, like time management, and I had great support with family and friends in school and cricket. I was very fortunate in that regard.
“The opportunity to play around the world in two sports was fantastic, it’s been a real privilege.”
Bates admits it was a dream come true to be selected for an Olympic Games after first taking up the sport at a young age.
“I wanted to get involved in sport at High School and basketball was a big sport. I played it during my early 20s and it was good fun, I had no idea it would take off like it did,” the 29-year-old said.
“I was fortunate enough to go to the Olympics in Beijing with the basketball team, it was a huge honour.”
Bates, who played as guard for the Tall Ferns, saw her side miss out on the quarter-finals, winning once and losing four times.
But the skipper will always take the positives from the competition, and said: “The experience was just incredible but quite surreal at the same time.
“I just didn’t know what to make of it when you are walking around and seeing all the athletes in the Olympic Village, it was amazing. You are just in your own bubble out there – it is hard to believe it happened.”
Four years on, Devine was preparing herself for the London Olympics and the 27-year-old admits it was tough to step away from cricket.
She said: “Hockey was something I had to work hard for, there is a lot more competition for places back home but it taught me a whole different way of competing and training.
“I made the decision in the build-up to London 2012 that I would go away from cricket for two years to focus on hockey. It was really tough – I walked around cricket grounds looking for my fix.
“It’s pretty normal for Kiwis to get stuck into every sport going, rugby is obviously massive but I never took that up, just every other sport.”
Following her exploits on the biggest sporting stage, Bates admitted she found it difficult to keep up both disciplines and made the decision to focus solely on cricket.
She said: “I reached a stage where I didn't feel I was doing either of them justice. And when I was offered the opportunity to captain New Zealand at cricket I took it on.
“I found more opportunities in cricket and although I miss playing basketball, being the leader of this side is amazing.”
With women’s cricket now rapidly expanding, Devine is excited for the future of the game following the introduction of the Women’s Big Bash League and the Kia Super League.
“There’s lots of opportunities now,” the all-rounder said. “New Zealand Cricket have been very supportive to allow us to explore these options because the more you can play the better you get.
“We are very fortunate to have their support and it’s great the ECB and Cricket Australia are putting the time and effort into these tournaments. It’s a great time to be involved.”