Sophie Devine will use tough T20 World Cup lessons to lead Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred
For Sophie Devine, the lesson of how a team’s success or failure in short-form cricket can hang on a single instant is still raw.
So the New Zealand captain fully expects her nation’s group-stage exit at the recent Women’s T20 World Cup, shaped by narrow defeats to India and Australia, to influence her leadership of Birmingham Phoenix in the inaugural Hundred competition.
“Cricket can be a pretty cruel game,” Devine told ESPNcricinfo after being named Phoenix skipper on Friday. “I’m obviously really disappointed that we couldn’t get out of the group stages at the recent T20 World Cup, but if you look back on it, we missed out by three runs and four runs to the eventual finalists, which makes it more obvious how close T20 cricket can be.
“It could be one boundary, it could be a wide, it could be a catch dropped. Certainly for me it’s knowing that cricket can ebb and flow so quickly in the shorter format. So taking that forward to the Hundred format, it certainly will be about riding the waves and about how we can stay in the game and stay in the fight for as long as possible because you know it can only take a couple of balls for momentum to swing back your way.”
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The World’s No.1-ranked allrounder and most recent WBBL Player of the Tournament, Devine is looking forward to teaming up with the likes of Australia’s Ashleigh Gardner and England players Amy Jones, Georgia Elwiss and Kirstie Gordon in the new hundred-ball format, scheduled to begin in July.
“The really exciting thing for me is that everyone’s in the same boat, it’s not as though I’m the only player that hasn’t played this format before,” Devine said. “At the end of the day it’s still cricket, it’s stil bat and ball, it’s still bat v ball.
“From a captaincy point of view it will be, especially in the field, about when you give the bowler another five balls, that is something that I’m going to have to play around with and put my head together with Ben [Sawyer], the coach, and other senior players around how we see that. With 20 less balls than a normal T20, having strategies around batting order and tactics around that is something that you’re not going to get right straight away.”
“It can be sometimes interesting if people are bossing you around and they’re not exactly backing it up, so that’s something I certainly want to do, is lead from the front on the field”
However, it is the 20 fewer balls per innings that could play into Devine’s hands as a batsman with 2,384 career runs from 91 T20 internationals at a strike rate of 126.4 to add to her 87 wickets.
“It’s right up my alley,” she said. “It gives me a bit more of a free licence to go even earlier. I always want to be an aggressive cricketer, whether it’s with bat or with ball, so for me it gives that licence a bit earlier in the innings knowing that you’ve only got the hundred balls to make your impact.
“Especially with the recent announcement that Ash Gardner is going to be joining the side – and we’ve got players like Amy Jones, Georgia Elwiss as well, who I know can take the game head on – it’s something that I’m really excited about with this format.”
Having only assumed the New Zealand captaincy in January as Amy Satterthwaite took maternity leave, Devine comes across as a natural leader, eager to set the example and boost her players’ belief in themselves.
“The most important thing for me to remember is that I’m a player as well and making sure that I’m doing my role with the bat and the ball and making sure I’m doing that and leading from the front,” Devine said.
“It can be sometimes interesting if people are bossing you around and they’re not exactly backing it up, so that’s something I certainly want to do, is lead from the front on the field. Off it, it’s about building trust and relationships with the players and giving them confidence because we all know how tough cricket can be.
“I think probably most important for me, it’s having a bit of fun as well. If we can go out there and have a smile on our face and enjoy what we’re doing, because we’re in a pretty special position, it’s certainly something that hopefully comes across in my captaincy.”
A special priority window for tickets to standalone women’s matches in The Hundred is now open until Monday 16 March. For more information on The Hundred and to sign up for priority tickets, visit thehundred.com