Cricket gave me financial stability: Sophie

In an interview to Sportstar, Sophie Devine, one of New Zealand’s most explosive cricketers, talks of her journey as a sportswoman, women’s cricket and her idols.

New Zealand's Sophie Devine plays both cricket and hockey.   -  THE HINDU

Sophie Devine is one of New Zealand’s most explosive cricketers. When she is not busy playing cricket, she can be seen dabbling with another sport in New Zealand colours — hockey.

Crediting the coaches for allowing her to play both the games, Sophie said: “New Zealand cricket has allowed me to play a bit of hockey as well. I did have to make a decision during the London Olympics. I did give up cricket for a while but I have been really fortunate to have some great coaches and support staff around me who have allowed me to play both sports. Even today, playing both hockey and cricket keeps me fresh, both mentally and physically.”

So what makes Sophie so explosive? “Growing up, playing against my brother and his friends has been a massive help. A lot of girls have said so. Only when I was 15 or 16, I started playing girl’s cricket.”

Speaking about the similarities between hockey and cricket, Sophie said: “A lot of people talk about hockey, cricket and the hand-eye coordination. I do get told by the cricket coaches when I try to do a hockey swing. T20 cricket is so explosive and dynamic. In that way, playing hockey with fast moving ball has certainly helped in my long term fitness for cricket.”

Olympic aspirations

Sophie, however, missed out on an opportunity to represent New Zealand in hockey at the London Olympics. “I trained for London Olympics, but missed out on the final squad. After that, professional contracts came out for New Zealand cricket and it was too good to give up. That was definitely a reason to focus on cricket, it gave me financial security.”

When asked whether she preferred to play in the World Cup (cricket) or the Olympics, Sophie paused for a moment to think and then laughed. "Oh! I don’t know. Being here, World Cup obviously, but an Olympic gold medal will be very special.”

Sophie also revealed that she had a unique Indian connection. “I actually play for the Wellington Indian Sports Club, so I have got a bit of connection (with India), which is really cool," she said.

Test cricket and IPL

Despite playing cricket for a decade now, a lot of New Zealand woman cricketers have not played Test matches for years. Sophie said: “It is a hard one. All the girls would love to play a Test match. We have seen the Ashes last year, we have seen India play. We would also love to play the format. It is something all cricketers — men or women — regard as the ultimate challenge.”

On having an IPL for women, Sophie said: “I am all for it. It would be fantastic. With the Big Bash being such a great success in Australia, and England starting their Super League, IPL looks like the next step.”

Federer, Valerie Adams and Brendon McCullum are some of Sophie's sporting idols. “Federer is an incredible athlete. Not only on the court, but probably how he has handled himself off the court. One of the humble guys out there. He is confident about his own capabilities, which is amazing. Valerie Adams is there. There are so many female athletes there in New Zealand. It is so inspiring.

“Brendon McCullum has been massive for cricket in New Zealand. What he has done off the field has been massive for the game. Growing up, it was always Brett Lee. Tried to do everything like Brett Lee. Even the run-up. Nathan Astle, Chris Cairns and Chris Harris are also my idols.”

Among the current crop of cricketers, she relates the most to all-rounder Grant Elliot. “The closest I am with is Grant Elliot. He is based in Wellington, where I am from. We have had a couple of awesome chats, not only about cricket, but leadership and life. He is an awesome person to talk to. He is so humble. He is a little bit like Federer. I don’t think I have ever heard a bad word said about him.”

Sophie suffers from Type 1 diabetes. Speaking about how she maintains herself during matches, the New Zealander said: “It is a bit of a challenge sometimes, especially when you come to countries like India, where the weather obviously is a factor. But sport has played a massive part in controlling my diabetes, helped me regulate my blood sugar level.”

A rare occurrence in today’s world, Sophie has never worn a helmet. It is her personal choice despite the risks involved.

“Some people might call me stupid, but I have never worn one, even when I played boys' cricket. Only once have I worn a helmet. It is about the comfort and being able to move. As to encouraging young kids, I would ask them to wear a helmet.”