With the world’s best cricketers in New Zealand counting down to the start of the World Cup, cricket writing veteran David Leggat looks at five players amongst the White Ferns’ opposition likely to dazzle.
Ellyse Perry, Australia
More often than not, if you’re looking for an impartial perspective on a player, don’t go to a team-mate. You’ll inevitably get a skewed perspective, and that’s perhaps understandable. So try someone from outside that player’s inner sanctum.
Emily Drumm, the former White Ferns captain who led New Zealand to their only World Cup victory 22 years ago, is effusive when it comes to Ellyse Perry, the versatile 31-year-old Aussie allrounder.
“She’s about as perfect as you could get to a professional cricketer. She has such natural gifts for the technical side of the game, is so technically correct it’s sickening,” she laughs.
“Incredibly talented and a great role model for anyone. You never get a poor game out of her.”
Perry played for the Matildas, Australia’s women’s football team in her mid-teens. But she then plumped for cricket, in which she’s just returned to the No.1 spot for ODI allrounders in the world.
She spent 1535 days at the top, before dropping a rankings spot for a time last year. Put it this way: she’s never been out of the top two allrounders in the game since November 2014.
A lively fast-medium bowler and clean hitting batter, Perry has scored 3206 runs at a whopping 50.09 and taken 156 wickets at 24.8 apiece from her 121 ODIs, her first of which was against New Zealand in Darwin in 2007 when she was 16.
Add in two test centuries and an average of a mighty 75 in her 10 tests, plus strong T20 numbers – and player of the match in the 2010 world T20 final against the White Ferns — and it’s no wonder she’s regarded as one of the game’s premier players.
As Drumm put it: “She’s the first modern player who set the standard for turning up and performing in every game”.
Nat Sciver, England
Born in Tokyo – the daughter of Julia Longbottom, Britain’s ambassador to Japan – allrounder Sciver didn’t fancy cricket straight off.
Indeed, her preferred sports were football and tennis, but when she did try it, she proved to have a significant talent.
She’s now played 80 ODIs, 91 T20s and seven tests for England.
Her ODI debut was against Pakistan in 2013 and she became the first English player, male or female, to bag a T20 hat trick, in Barbados against the White Ferns in the same year – accounting for Maddy Green, Erin Bermingham and Frankie Mackay in successive balls.
That feat in her first year got her noticed and she’s now established among the game’s best allround performers.
During the 2017 World Cup, en route to helping secure the title for England, she combined with Heather Knight to set the highest third-wicket stand in Cup history, 213, and for good measure nailed the fourth wicket partnership record too, 170, with Tammy Beaumont.
The following year, Sciver, who’s married to England team-mate Katherine Brunt, was named one of the five Wisden Cricketers of the Year.
She hits a mean ball, becoming the first player in the women’s Big Bash League to strike a six after signing for the Melbourne Stars.
At 29, Sciver is ranked No.2 allrounder in the women’s ODI game, behind only Perry.
If England are to press hard for the World Cup title, you sense Sciver will need to have a decisive presence.
Marizanne Kapp, South Africa
The player known unsurprisingly as ‘Kappy’ was a late bloomer on the international stage.
But she’s clearly a real sporting talent, having represented Eastern Province at netball and athletics before cricket.
Born in Port Elizabeth, Kapp had a slow start to her international career. Indeed, in her first 13 ODIs, she took just two wickets.
But her last 105 games have brought her a notable 132 wickets with her medium pacers. She’s now an integral part of South Africa’s women’s programme and one who has plied her game around the globe.
Kapp has played for the Surrey Stars, Sydney Sixers, Perth Scorchers and the Oval Invincibles in last years’ Hundred competition in England.
There’s a clue about Kapp’s value in that competition. She missed five games with a thigh injury, and battled post viral fatigue having caught Covid-19, which pushed back a procedure for a heart condition.
Some players are renowned for their consistency; Kapp can also point to a knack of rising to the big occasion.
Come the eliminator and final, Kapp was the star turn.
First, she made a rapid 37 and took three for 21 against the Birmingham Phoenix to make the final at Lord’s. There, before a 17,000 crowd, Kapp scored 26 off 14 balls and dismissed the first three Southern Brave batters for ducks, finishing with four for nine, and the player of the match award.
Her ODI debut, however, was inauspicious; a duck as part of 51 all out against the White Ferns at Bowral during the 2009 World Cup.
She’s played 118 ODIs, and taken her 134 wickets at 23.8 each. Her 2018 runs are at an average of 28.8. Kapp is ranked the game’s third best allrounder.
The 32-year-old, who has a degree in sports management, was one of four South Africans in the inaugural women’s Big Bash in Australia in 2015. Playing for Sydney Sixers, Kapp finished with 17 wickets at an economy rate of 4.28, the best in the competition.
In 2017, Kapp was named in the ICC women’s ODI team of the year. In 2018, she married South African captain Dane van Niekerk, who will miss the World Cup after fracturing her left ankle after slipping at home.
Van Niekerk admits she’s harder on Kapp than other players in the national team, aware of nipping accusations of favouritism in the bud. However, Kapp is now well ensconced in the South African colours.
Smriti Mandhana, India
There’s a fair chance there will be no better batter to watch during the World Cup than India’s lefthanded opener Smriti Mandhana.
The 25-year-old from Mumbai is an electric batter, full of dash and flash who regularly scores her runs at better than a run-a-ball.
She missed the first three ODIs on India’s pre-Cup tour to New Zealand due to quarantine regulations and made just 13 in her first innings at Queenstown.
But don’t be fooled. She anchored the Indian innings with 71 in their victory in the fifth ODI last week – a huge confidence boost for the side going into the World Cup.
She’s twice been named winner of the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Award as the No.1 women’s cricketer in the world. Mandhana is among the most in demand players for the T20 leagues around the globe and has 5.6 million Instagram followers.
In 64 ODIs, Mandhana has made 2461 runs at 41.7, with four centuries – including 105 against the White Ferns in Napier in 2019 off 104 balls, sharing a stand of 190 with Jemima Rodrigues. She followed that with an unbeaten 90 off 83 deliveries, and a 151-run stand with captain Mithali Raj, the only Indian ranked above her eighth spot on the ICC rankings.
She took up cricket after following her brother to his games. Everyone seemed to bat righthanded, so she turned around and stood on the other side of the ball. She does everything else righthanded.
Mandhana caught the eye with 224 for Maharashtra against Gujarat in a West Zone U19 tournament, and has the notable claim to fame of making centuries against Australia in test and ODI cricket. In 2016, she and Harmanpreet Kaur were the first Indians to play in the Big Bash League, for Brisbane Heat.
An in-form Mandhana can carry India far in this Cup.
Stafanie Taylor, West Indies
Taylor has been West Indies women’s cricket’s highest achiever.
For starters, let’s go to the top: she’s the first woman from the Caribbean team to be named ICC women’s player of the year, in 2011, and followed that by winning the top gong for ODI (2012) and T20 (2015) cricket.
Taylor hails from Spanish Town in Jamaica and was a handy footballer in her young days. However she figured cricket might give her more opportunity to see the world.
So good was she at her best that in 2013 she became the only player, male or female, to be ranked No.1 in both ODI batting and bowling at the same time.
In 137 ODIs, Taylor has made 5147 runs at 45.54 with seven centuries and taken 148 wickets at 21.5. In 16 ODIs against the White Ferns, Taylor averages a handsome 52.
She has spent time at the Sydney Thunder and England’s Southern Vipers, along with Auckland in 2011-12, and is now linked with the Adelaide Strikers and Southern Brave in England.
She is ranked No.8 allrounder in the ODI game; No.6 in the T20. Taylor led the West Indies to the world T20 title in Kolkata in 2016, beating Australia by eight wickets in the final and being named player of the tournament.
At 30, Taylor will be competing at her fourth World Cup – one less than her vice-captain, Anisa Mohammed.
But if you draw up a list of the most respected players in the game, Taylor will be near the top.