LA 2028 Olympics is long way for me, my goal is to perform in T20 World Cup: New Zealand’s Suzie Bates

New Zealand all-rounder Suzie Bates spoke to Sportstar on her career, the sport’s inclusion in Olympics, and women’s cricket evolution in the country.

Published : Apr 08, 2024 20:54 IST , Jaipur - 9 MINS READ

New Zealand’s Suzie Bates is also a double international, having played for the country in basketball at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
New Zealand’s Suzie Bates is also a double international, having played for the country in basketball at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. | Photo Credit: VIVEK BENDRE

New Zealand’s Suzie Bates is also a double international, having played for the country in basketball at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. | Photo Credit: VIVEK BENDRE

No batter, not even Virat Kohli, has scored as many runs in international T20 cricket as Suzie Bates. The New Zealand all-rounder has 4231 runs in T20Is and 5673 runs in ODIs.

At 36, she continues to be one of the stalwarts in women’s cricket. She is also a double international, having played for New Zealand in basketball at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

She spoke to  Sportstar over the phone from Hamilton.

Excerpts from the interview:

Question:  How exciting was it to bowl New Zealand to that last bowl victory in the third T20 against England recently?

Answer: It was one of the most exciting finishes to a game that I have bowled in. It was pleasing to be able to get the win after a tough start to the series. So yeah, it was super exciting. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to beat them again, but it felt great to be able to do a job with the ball.

Q: You have played before and after women’s cricket became professional. What kept cricketers like you going when there was not much money, publicity or television coverage, and how difficult were those days?

A: Initially, I never expected to be a professional athlete. It was something I loved to do, playing sport. I played a lot of sports growing up, and I got picked for the New Zealand women’s cricket team at 18. I didn’t even think about getting paid for or the potential to be paid, so it was all about loving to play for my country and getting the opportunities to go to World Cups.

I saw it as a privilege not just to go to those World Cups and not have to pay for them and get paid to travel the world with my friends. So, it’s a very different world now, and I feel that I am very fortunate that I got to experience both the amateur and professional sides of the game. There were probably crossroads there when I got to my late twenties where I probably wasn’t earning enough money to look after myself, and that is when the game started to take off worldwide and franchise cricket came into it.

That kept me going, and now, internationally, we are full-time professionals. I think having played in a completely amateur era, I now want to make the most of getting paid for something that I used to do pretty much for free. So, it was my dream job when I started and not getting paid, and now it is my dream job, and I get paid.

Q: How did players like you make a living during those days when there was no money at all in cricket?

A: It was a different world. As a female athlete, you didn’t expect to make money.

It was never an aspiration, and when I was young, from 18 to 24, I studied, and we got grants from the government to study and play sports to help pay for our living allowance.

I was fortunate that I had a very supportive family, so I lived at home during those years. So, I wasn’t paying rent, and I could afford to train and study, and not worry about getting a job. I took part-time roles like coaching, whether it was basketball or cricket, to earn a little bit of money on the side, and when we were away, we got reimbursed. So, I wasn’t making money, but I was doing everything I wanted to do. 

You made it work, but there were many players when I played that when they got to 26, 27, they were like, ‘Oh, You are not going to make money.’

Q: What keeps you going?

A: I think it is just the love of being part of the White Ferns. I still feel like I can contribute to any team I play in. I have always felt that when I stop enjoying not only the playing but the training, and I feel like I am not able to contribute, then I’ll give it away. But I feel like I have always found ways to keep contributing and I have loved it and probably always will love it.

It is that feeling of knowing that when you call it time, you are never going to be able to do it again. And that motivates me to keep getting the best out of myself.

There are always World Cups and pinnacle events just around the corner that I think I can contribute to this team. 

Q: What are your memories from playing in the Olympic basketball in 2008? 

A: I remember, growing up, I used to watch a lot of American sports on TV. And to play the USA women’s basketball team, who were the best in the world at the time, was pretty special.

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Just singing the national anthem at an Olympic Games was cool. And to rub shoulders with some of the best athletes in the world. There were the likes of Roger Federer, Michael Phelps and LeBron James at those Games. To be in the same space as them as a 19-year-old was inspiring and it made me want to be an athlete even more, whatever sport that was in.

Q: Cricket’s inclusion in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

A: It is so exciting for the growth of the game, not only women’s cricket, but men’s as well. The Olympics have changed drastically over the years in terms of the sports that we play.

We have had 3x3 basketball, and I guess the games that are growing all around the world. So for any young cricketer who has probably never thought about going to the Olympics, now there is an opportunity to attend. As an Olympic athlete who has been there for a different sport, I think it is still one of the most exciting events you can be a part of.

When we played at the Commonwealth Games, the number of New Zealanders that watched cricket that perhaps hadn’t watched before. It is great for the growth of the men’s and women’s games globally.

Q: You would be 40 then. Do you feel you might still have a second Olympics in you?

A: Oh, it would be an amazing feat, if I could participate in a different sport 20 years after my first one. If I am fit enough and playing well, we won’t put it out of the question.

But it is a long, long way away for me at 36 years old to be thinking about that. And my goal is to be able to perform in Bangladesh with the White Ferns in the T20 World Cup first.

Q: Looking back at your career, what do you consider have been the highlights?

A: As a cricketer, winning a World Cup, I think is the pinnacle, but we did not. Early on in my career, we came second three times, and that was a failure for me. But now that I look back on that, the fact that we played in three World Cup finals is an achievement in itself. Playing at Lords in that 2020 World Cup final, although the game went terribly for us, was a real highlight.

It sounds, I guess, a bit strange, but just to be a part of the White Ferns in a fully professional era from where we came from has been a real highlight for me to be a part of and just watch the game grow in New Zealand.

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It makes me proud that I have been through both eras, and, we haven’t won a World Cup. That is what I have always been driven to do. So those World Cups early on were disappointing. But if I can do that before I retire, I will be one happy cricketer.

Q: The toughest bowlers you have faced over the years? 

A: I was talking about it the other day to the girls. I found the combination of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole relentless.

And then I reckon I had my most competitive challenges with Jhulan Goswami. I loved the challenge of facing her in one-day cricket in particular. She was just so ruthless with the ball, and you felt like you were in a battle with every ball.

Q: The batters you have admired?

A: Karen Rolton was probably the first female cricketer that I was almost wowed by in terms of how hard she hit the ball, but she didn’t play for that much longer when I started. And unfortunately, Meg Lanning scored a ton of runs against New Zealand. And as I was captain, she scored so many hundreds, and I could never come up with ways to get her out. She was just so determined, and I found her the hardest batter to prepare for in terms of captaincy.

Q: Favourite male cricketers?

A: Two athletes that used to make me stop and watch them were Michael Jordan, and Sachin Tendulkar. Whenever those two people were on, I just was fixated on the TV. I loved Tendulkar’s presence at the crease. I loved the amount of runs he scored, and he was the one batter that I remember just always wanting to watch.

Q: What is the state of women’s cricket in New Zealand now? How has it evolved over the years from the time you were a little girl?

A: It is unrecognisable, and I can only speak from my experience at Otago. When I started, we were very part-time. We only trained for a couple of months of the year and had volunteer coaches.

Now I go back to Dunedin, we have a full-time coach in Craig Cumming, who works tirelessly with all the players. We have up to 20 to 25 people turning up to our team training. We have assistant coaches. The number of young players that are now playing want to get contracted and play first and foremost for their regions in the Super Smash and now the White Ferns – it is just so different. Players are recognised everywhere they go in Dunedin, the Sparks players, whereas back in the day, it was very rare anyone knew any female cricketers.

So the depth that we are creating through putting women’s cricket on television and young girls wanting to be cricketers is so different. You can’t even measure the difference that there is now from when I first started. And probably that is why I am still here.

Sony Sports Network has acquired the exclusive broadcast rights of New Zealand Cricket for seven years.

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