WWC 2022 – New Zealand captain Sophie Devine glad to have inspired next gen in ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity

WWC 2022 - New Zealand captain Sophie Devine glad to have inspired next gen in 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity
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Was it the last time at a World Cup for some of New Zealand’s greats? “Don’t think anyone’s making any decisions now,” says captain

Just some questions swirling around a disappointed host nation, whose World Cup campaign ended with a victory over Pakistan, but it was too little to see them progress to the knockouts.

But it might not just be the end of the World Cup for them. The match against Pakistan had all the elements of a farewell, too, from Martin’s tears as the national anthem was sung to the standing ovation Bates got from the Hagley Oval crowd after she was dismissed for 126. Like some of us, they might have been wondering, was this the end of an era?

“I don’t think anyone’s going to be making any decisions now,” Sophie Devine said afterwards.

She described the day as “emotional” for everyone involved because “playing in a home World Cup is probably not going to happen again”. But she could not reveal whether some of those who wore their hearts on their sleeves had already made decisions about their futures in the game. “I’m sure everyone will take some time away. It’s obviously been a pretty full-on last sort six to 12 months leading into this World Cup.”

Martin, who is 36 and has been playing internationally since 2003, was the most demonstrative, breaking away from the team huddle to wave at the crowd after the match. It looked like a goodbye, but Devine wasn’t sure. “Marty can’t keep her emotions in check, which is her to a tee, and that’s why we absolutely love her.”

And the adoration flowed. Devine heaped praise on young quick Hannah Rowe, who came back from an opening spell that cost 27 runs in three overs to take a career-best 5 for 55, and on Bates, who brought up 5000 runs in this match and scored her 12th ODI century.

“Suzie Bates is going to be one of our greatest-ever players produced from New Zealand, and I’ve just had a front-row seat for most of my career,” Devine said. “I think the greatest thing about Suzie is [she’s] absolutely a world-class player but she’s just a bloody good human and the way that she inspired other people and even now, she’s like a young kid out there. I think you probably saw her running around and joking with everyone – her energy is infectious and I think that’s probably something that I’m most proud of, not just the runs that she scored.”

“Obviously, results haven’t gone our way but I’ve just got so much love and I feel like I’ve still got more to give to this group. So I don’t want to make any decisions at the moment”

Sophie Devine

Ultimately, although this New Zealand side wanted to win, they also wanted to leave a legacy and when Devine looked around the full grass embankments, she could see that they indeed had done so.

“It’s certainly something that we’ve spoken about as a group before this tournament, that we want to inspire that next generation. It was really nice to see a packed embankment over there. It’s a beautiful cricket ground and to see it filled up with plenty of fans there, it certainly makes me extremely proud.”

That crowd was treated to a New Zealand celebration anyway, as the champion team from 2000 was honoured by the ICC. Though Devine would have loved to replicate what that team had achieved, she was satisfied that her team had given their all. “We’ve obviously been on the wrong side of a couple of results, but we’ve fought throughout this tournament. We want results to go the other way but the heart and character, I hope everyone sees it. We’ve played with absolutely everything we’ve got.”

It wasn’t enough, which is a bitter pill for Devine to swallow, but it’s left New Zealand with some time away with the possibility of returning to a new-look set-up. Coach Bob Carter’s contract ends with the World Cup and though Devine said he had been “fantastic for this group”, she could not say whether he would continue.

“I know that there’ll be a process that will be followed by New Zealand Cricket and whether he’s the right man, I guess that’ll be decided,” she said. “But what he’s offered this group has been outstanding. We’re seeing players coming through and starting to have a lot more consistency with their performances.”

Devine also indicated she may want to continue as captain. “It’s probably too early to say at this stage. I certainly need to take some time away and just reflect,” she said. “I’m certainly really passionate about this team and I feel like we’re in a really good space. Obviously, results haven’t gone our way but I’ve just got so much love and I feel like I’ve still got more to give to this group. So I don’t want to make any decisions at the moment, but I still feel like I’ve got a bit left in the tank.”

As for the other five members of the current squad who are over 30 – including Lea Tahuhu, who missed the final match with an injury, and Frances Mackay, who finished as their joint-leading wicket-taker with Tahuhu – time will tell. For now, Devine will enjoy the rest of the tournament with her feet up, believing “Australia are certainly beatable and South Africa are a real threat”, but that the overall calibre of cricket has been high as the women’s game continues to grow.

“I’ve been so impressed with the standard of competition, and I think the quality of the wickets have played a massive part in that,” she said. “I think the run scoring has been a real feature of this World Cup and I’m excited to see what the next couple of games holds.

“I really urge any Kiwis or anyone out there to get along to the remaining games because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a 50-over World Cup here in New Zealand and I’m just so proud of the way that we’ve been able to show that to the world.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

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