Sophie Devine: 'A full-fledged women's IPL would take the game to another level'

New Zealand cricketer Sophie Devine has been working on her strength and conditioning lately and is eager to hit the ground running.

File picture of New Zealand all-rounder Sophie Devine.   -  Getty Images

New Zealand lifted all social and economic restrictions except border controls last week after declaring it had no active coronavirus cases. Hard-hitting all-rounder Sophie Devine will tell you it happened because the country fought the pandemic like a team. A team of five million!

The NZC women’s T20 Player of the Year had been having a brilliant run until the enforced break. Not only did she finish as the White Ferns’ highest scorer in the T20 World Cup this year with 132 runs from four matches, but she was also at her best in the last edition of the Women’s Big Bash League. Having bludgeoned 769 runs for Adelaide Strikers at a strike-rate of 130.33, she additionally topped the sixes chart with 29 maximums. The 30-year-old cricketer maintained her swashbuckling form at her domestic side Wellington Blaze as well, scoring more sixes than any other batswoman in the last edition of Super Smash.

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The 30-year-old cricketer, who has represented her nation in hockey as well, has been working on her strength and conditioning lately and is eager to hit the ground running. In a conversation with Sportstar, Devine, a true ambassador of women’s game, also added that a full-fledged Women's IPL with more teams and multi-venue fixtures will “take the game” to another level.

With no sporting activities, how did you keep yourself motivated during the lockdown?

It certainly has been an experience none of us were truly prepared for. Knowing that everyone was in a similar position with the lockdown almost made it feel like you were part of a bigger team. In fact, New Zealand was being referred to as a team of five million!

It provided me with a great opportunity to have an extended period of time working on the strength and conditioning side of my game. Going from season to season, I don't often get the opportunity for much of a pre-season, so I have certainly enjoyed the chance to get back to basics.

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Probably, the biggest challenge was the lack of physical connection with teammates and tours and competitions being cancelled, but I know that the right decision was made in that regard.

At this stage, Sophie Devine is confident of New Zealand hosting next year's Women's World Cup.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The new ICC norms would be enforced once cricket resumes. There would be no group celebrations, no use of saliva to shine the ball. How much do you think it will affect the game and what are your thoughts on the bio-bubble environment?

At the end of the day, it's still cricket. It is still bat versus ball. Things will look a little different, but I'd much rather be playing cricket in a bio-bubble than not playing at all.

New Zealand, which was declared virus-free recently, is scheduled to host the Women’s World Cup next year. Since it is a cricketing extravaganza with a number of countries involved, how positive are you of the tournament going ahead? Do you think there may be some major changes put in place?

At this stage it looks like the tournament will be going ahead on schedule, which is great news. However, if there is a need to postpone it then I think everyone needs to be flexible and know that the people making those decisions are doing so with expert advice. There may be some changes put in place but again it is hard to know what it might look like, especially as the tournament is still over seven months away.

Sophie Devine believes that domestic T20 leagues have been a big success in the women's game.   -  THE HINDU

 

You have played in the Women's T20 Challenge in India. How important is it to have a full-fledged Women's IPL as soon as possible with more teams and multi-venue fixtures?

I've been extremely fortunate to be involved in the T20 Challenge for the last couple of years. Knowing the huge positive impact the men's IPL has had on world cricket, I think a full-fledged women's IPL would certainly take the game to another level. The ability to play with domestic players and other internationals is a great experience for everyone involved and I truly believe it will improve the standard of the women's game not only in India but around the world.

How have leagues like KSL and WBBL helped women's cricket grow over the years and what are your thoughts on the now-postponed The Hundred?

Domestic T20 leagues have been a big success in the women's game. The standard of the women's game has improved dramatically over the last four to five years and I think a lot of that comes down to players getting experience playing in different teams, different formats and different environments.

The Hundred is a really exciting format that I can't wait to play. The different tactics and strategy that will need to be used may influence the way we play other formats of the game which, again, I think will be a great thing.

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England earmarked about £20 million exclusively for the growth of women's cricket but with projected losses due to the pandemic, there is worry those funds may not be ring-fenced anymore. World over, women's sport is facing the prospect of having to take a backseat to allow the more lucrative variant to 'fix' the financial impact. What are your thoughts on investments in the women's game in New Zealand?

With COVID-19, everyone is feeling the pinch, financially. New Zealand Cricket has made some strong investment in the women’s game in recent times and hopefully that can continue. I also hope we can build on the momentum that was created from the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia where over 85,000 people attended the final at the MCG.

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