Ian Anderson is a senior sports reporter for Stuff
OPINION: After more than a decade of underperforming by the White Ferns, New Zealand Cricket has rightly said enough.
The organization has brought the ax down on a string of established internationals, including standout Amy Satterthwaite.
The veteran left-hand bat was one of a host of senior players not given a White Ferns contract by NZC this week, along with pace bowler Lea Tahuhu, allrounder Frankie Mackay and spinner Leigh Kasperek.
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In their place are young players which the organization has decided are the future of New Zealand women’s cricket – spinners Eden Carson, Fran Jonas and Nensi Patel, quick bowler Molly Penfold, batter Georgia Plimmer and wicketkeeper Izzy Gaze.
Friday’s announcement of the 17 contracted players for the 2022-23 year was pre-empted the previous day by Satterthwaite’s retirement from the international game after 256 appearances for her country – brought about by her omission from the contracted list.
That bombshell was followed by more shell shock as Tahuhu (144 international games), Mackay (60) and Kasperek (85 despite being unwanted for this year’s one-day World Cup campaign) also became victims of a clear push for youth.
In their place – and that of Thamsyn Newton – come six players who have yet to either make their White Ferns debut or make any international contribution of note.
While the sextet could be considered to have shown some promising returns at domestic level, none of them have yet displayed the ability that makes them a better bet for the national side over the next year than Satterthwaite or Tahuhu.
But NZ Cricket’s hand had essentially been forced by a numbing run of disappointing world-stage showings from the White Ferns. Going all-in without holding anything near ‘the nuts’ is a risky move at a poker table, but after you’ve been bossed around for endless orbits, eventually you have to make a stand.
So if NZC has erred, it has done so on the side of bravery.
While there was some scope to find a middle ground between sticking with the veterans and the new-broom sweep – retaining Satterthwaite and Tahuhu while rewarding four youngsters – the other option was to stick with what hasn’t worked for a long time.
When the home side failed to make the semifinals of the World Cup earlier this year, it marked a depressing run of failures by a team which has included some of the country’s best women cricketers in its history in Sophie Devine, Suzie Bates, Satterthwaite, Melie Kerr and Tahuhu.
It was the second consecutive occasion NZ failed to make the last four of a one-day World Cup, coupled with missing out on the semifinals of the Twenty20 World Cup at their last two appearances.
The sixth-placing at this year’s event on home soil spelled the end of the coaching reign of Bob Carter, who was unable to change the faltering path of his charges.
However, the new round of contracts has come before NZ Cricket has appointed his successor.
It’s undeniable that the latest contracting processed is flawed. NZ Cricket said it considered likely playing values over the next 12 months (with a T20 focus with the shortest-format World Cup held next year), calculating in past performances, playing history, the upcoming playing schedule, and likelihood of players being involved during that period.
That still makes it hard to fathom why Hayley Jensen was contracted while others weren’t.
By stating in the media release on the contracts “the NZ Cricket Players Association expressed satisfaction the contracting process, as outlined in the Master Agreement, was adhered to”, it appears NZ Cricket is keen to point out the decisions would stand up to scrutiny and any protests which could yet follow.
The youth path is problematic as currently there aren’t systems in place within women’s cricket in NZ – for a number of reasons, not least financial – to develop our brightest talents properly before asking them to jump into the national side.
Ultimately, it feels like a massive missed opportunity to further build the game with a sterling showing at the home World Cup was the last straw for NZ Cricket.
Inevitably, there’s going to be a period of further pain as players of promise find out how unforgiving the top level is, and they’re going to have to make their failures in the spotlight as well.
But that’s nothing that we haven’t witnessed for many years already from the White Ferns.