July 6, 2017

'I enjoy bowling a lot more than maths'

The baby of the New Zealand team, Amelia Kerr, talks about coming up in the game alongside illustrious team-mates

"One day I was just mucking around, pretending I could bowl spin. Watching my action, Dad said it wasn't quite bad and actually looked quite natural. Since that day, I started practising" © Getty Images

Barely a month past her 16th birthday, Amelia Kerr graduated from playing boys' grade cricket in school to making her international debut. Three months short of 17, she now has a host of records to her name and a wrong'un that can unnerve even the likes of the Australian top order at will. ESPNcricinfo spoke to New Zealand's youngest representative at the World Cup, who has been regarded by the Australia captain Meg Lanning as "a star of the future".

Your grandfather, Bruce Murray, played 13 Tests for New Zealand. How much of an inspiration has he been for you?
He didn't coach me or anything, but it's cool to have that sort of knowledge in the family. It's been good fun having all my cousins play cricket and growing up with them playing in the backyard and then going away for cricket camps with family and friends. [Cricket] made our family gatherings so much more fun and social.

Your father, Robbie, and mother, Jo, played cricket for Wellington. What is it like having cricketers for parents?
It's mainly the support I've got from them. They have encouraged me through my earliest days of training. They let my coaches coach me, but it's nice to have them as parents, to be able to talk to them about the game when I want. My dad has been helping me since I was young. Just when I first started training properly, Dad and I would go down to the nets, in Tawa, where we live. That's when he's coached me a little bit, although it was mostly about the tactical side of the game, not technical too much.

Then I got my own coaches. I have been with Ivan Tissera since I was ten or so. Pete Younghusband, and Matthew Bell, the New Zealand women's batting coach, have also been there to help me improve my game.

How did you get into cricket?
When I was younger, my sister was always really active, playing sport, and I was really interested. Me and one of my best friends, Kate, would watch all the siblings play. We decided to start from there, playing with my cousins and friends from school when I was about six. We all joined a team and played through together till about 12 or 13.

How did bowling wristspin come about?
Not really, it kind of just happened. I always bowled pace till I was about ten - a scary fast bowler. And then one day I was bowling outside my house with my sister, my dad, and in the end I was just mucking around, pretending I could bowl spin. Watching my action, Dad said it wasn't quite bad and actually looked quite natural. Since that day, I started practising. I got into Ivan Tissera, my coach, who taught me to bowl legspin.

"My friends have no idea about cricket, really. But they are all proud of me"

Who presented you with your ODI and T20I caps?
Sophie [Devine] presented me with the T20 cap, because both of us come from Tawa, so maybe they decided to go with her. The ODI cap, I think it was Suzie [Bates]… umm, I'm pretty sure it was Suzie who handed me that one.

In eight ODIs so far, you've bagged two four-wicket hauls - the first one against Pakistan and the other against Australia. Which performance is more dear to you?
I have to say the one versus Australia, because that was one of the best I've bowled in my life. The fact that it was the Rose Bowl, and it was my first one against Australia, made it pretty special. Besides, to be able to bowl to those players and dismiss them [Beth Mooney, Meg Lanning, Elyse Villani and Alyssa Healy], you know, the players you grew up watching, was special.

What, in your assessment, has made your legspin so effective?
The fact that I have variations is a big part, and being able to back them and then making batters to think more about what I'm going to bowl. I think that makes my legspin a lot better.

Is there a nickname your team-mates have given you?
The media manager gave me the nickname AK-48 - that's basically my initials and my shirt number.

Does that mean you're considered the trusted weapon of assault in the team?
Nah, I don't think too much of it. It's more a bit of banter among the group.

Kerr (back row, second from right): "I've been really lucky that I fell in love with the game of cricket and have been growing up in a supportive family and good coaches and friends" © Getty Images

Why 48 for your jersey number?
When I was little, my favourite numbers were always 4 and 8. And then, once at a cricket camp, I had a raffle ticket with No. 48 on it and I won $50 (laughs). Then, on the same day, our team won and I got 48 not out. So it's just kind of meant to be.

Do you have a sporting idol you love to watch?
Yeah, I've always admired the way Kane Williamson bats. I guess, also Sophie Devine, for the similar kind of upbringing we've had: both coming from Tawa, playing for Wellington Blaze, and both playing boys' cricket when we were young.

What's it like playing with and sharing the dressing room with Suzie Bates?
It's pretty cool. She's always been someone I've looked up to. Being able to play with her is special, and she's such a great leader both on and off the field. She gets along with the group and is very positive, encourages everybody. I like how she can do all this and then still perform at her best.

Given your age and the fact you have already created several records while setting up wins for New Zealand, are you the baby or the boss of the team?
I'm definitely not the boss in the team. I'm a bit quiet and laid-back (giggles). As team-mates, we are all here to do the same thing. It's nice to have players like Suzie and Amy [Satterthwaite] in our team, to be able to learn off players with so much experience.

In your first match overseas - at Adelaide Oval - you were involved in four dismissals as Australia were bowled out for their lowest T20I total - 66. Among those dismissals was a run-out in the first over of Australia's chase, and a one-handed screamer at cover off Bates' bowling. Is fielding an aspect of the game you particularly focus on?
We do a lot of fielding in the New Zealand side's training and practices. Matthew Bell has developed my fielding a lot. Even when I was young, my uncle and my dad would always carry those tennis rackets and tennis balls on holiday outings. They would make me and my cousins play those catching and fielding games, in the manner of a competition. So it was both fun and competitive. I guess the fact that I can move kind of well on the field has got a bit to do with growing up that way.

"I don't remember the team winning [the Women's World Cup] in 2000. I would have been, maybe, only two months old? But yeah, I'm grateful to have been given this opportunity to be able to play here"

You are the first player - male or female - to score a T20 hundred at the Basin Reserve, and the only one to have made two.
The first one was during the NZCT Secondary School Girls' final when I was 13. But I didn't know that nobody had scored a hundred there before me. It was a special occasion to play at the Basin at that age, and I was glad I could do it for my school, Tawa College. The second one came at 15. But Sophie [Devine] had also smashed a ton between the two I made. Batting is something I want to keep developing for the future at the international level.

You have opened the batting for Tawa College Boys 1st XI in Wellington's Premier Youth Grade. How has playing with boys helped your game?
Yeah, it definitely has, in a big way. It has been one of the biggest bonuses for me to develop my cricket. It's great being able to play tough cricket every weekend and I've been lucky that I've grown up playing with boys and my friends from school. So to be able to play with them even now is cool.

Where were you when you got the news of your maiden international call-up?
I was called up for a T20I in Australia after Leigh [Kasperek] got injured. Haidee [Tiffen] just called and asked me to be ready, pack my bags, because I was to fly to Australia that afternoon. I had just got dropped home from the boys' 1st XI Cup [game] that I was to play in school earlier that day. The match had got cancelled, so I was lucky I had my phone on me. Had it not been called off, I would have been out on the field and wouldn't have had my phone on me. I got back home as fast as I could and then my sister dropped me to the airport.

The first ball you bowled to Meg Lanning in international cricket crashed into her stumps. Talk us through that delivery and how it felt bowling to the No. 1 batsman in the world.
The dismissal was quite special. I was pretty glad to not have to bowl to her for longer, and that I got around her quickly. She was going pretty strong and I was glad to have broken the partnership and also do the job for my team.

What did you do with your first New Zealand shirt?
I gave it my coach, Ivan Tissera, to thank him for everything he has done for me. Without him I would have probably not been where I am today.

How do your friends and classmates react to your playing for the country?
My friends have no idea about cricket, really. But they are all proud of me. They support me, enjoy watching me play. At home they get all the games recorded, but they don't quite understand the game. In a way it's good to have that balance, so when you go home, you can relax, hang out with friends and not talk about cricket.

What about your teachers?
They are very supportive, especially my principal. They are good with giving me extensions to catch up with my work. And they are very proud of me.

How are you able to juggle your studies with cricket?
It hasn't been too much of a problem so far, but I have a feeling when I get back from the World Cup, it's going to be pretty hectic for a few months.

"I'm definitely not the boss in the team. I'm a bit quiet and laid-back" © International Cricket Council

What subject do you like the most?
I enjoy food and nutrition and psychology. I like English writing quite a lot.

Do you like maths?
Oh, not at all. I don't like maths at all. I enjoy bowling in cricket a lot more than maths. I dread maths.

Is there any other career you'd like to pursue?
Definitely want to carry on with cricket and see where it takes me. If I keep enjoying the game as much as I do now, I could be playing for a long time.

How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy hanging out with my friends, seeing my family. I love my family. I'm really fortunate that all my family is really close, all my cousins, we've grown up together. I'm probably at my aunty and uncle's house more than I'm at my own.

What's the most teenager-like thing you've done of late?
I've just got my restricted [licence] back home, which means I can drive. That is pretty cool. It's going to be a new experience.

Do you play any other sport?
Nope. I used to do football along with cricket, but I had to stop that.

If you are stuck in an airport lounge, what would you choose to do: sleep, watch video clips of Kane Williamson, or solve a crossword?
I'd probably eat a lot of food. At the Dubai airport, there was a kids' room and it had a lot of games, like PlayStation. So maybe I would hang out in there, play the car games on the PlayStation.

What's your favourite TV series?
I enjoyed Riverdale on Netflix and 13 Reasons Why.

Are you a prankster?
When I'm with my friends, I can be the joker a little bit. When I'm with the team, I'm pretty laid-back.

What advice would you give to fellow 16-year-olds who aspire to play at the international level?
They've just got to love it, love what they do, work hard and surround themselves with good people. I've been really lucky that I fell in love with the game of cricket and have been growing up in a supportive family and good coaches and friends.

If you were to bag a five-for in the World Cup final, which side would you like it to be against, and whose wicket would you most want to have in that haul?
Any opponent, any player would do. To be given a chance to play in the final and win it would be good enough, doesn't matter who it is against.

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • askpar2726497 on July 7, 2017, 20:10 GMT

    love love love this article. may be the best article I have I ever read. A lots of laugh and sharing moments of her ✨. I really really proud of that 16 years old Amelia! love from India

  • David on July 7, 2017, 0:56 GMT

    A wonderful interview! She is still very young and obviously has a lot to learn but one can sense her passion for the game which is most important. The sky's the limit for the youngster.

  • Jonah on July 6, 2017, 9:54 GMT

    An excellent talent and a great attitude, hopefully she will go far for her team.

  • dayaku2216664 on July 6, 2017, 7:54 GMT

    She is a star. Watched her the other day and man, she has a future. Good luck

  • Jay on July 6, 2017, 4:49 GMT

    @JOSEPHOFSIMON A very kind comment. Nice one.

    Although i'm reminded of another Kiwi cricket story, of a teenage spinner who came from nowhere to the national team and eventually Test captain. He did alright as well.

  • joseph3877915 on July 6, 2017, 4:26 GMT

    Back where I come from, there was once a sixteen year-old who burst into the scene dragging with him a goodie bag full of records. He stayed on for another 25 years, scored around 30,000 international runs and inspired millions to play the game or simply watch it. Best wishes Amelia, live your dreams.