July 12, 2017

'Cricket is one of those sports you can never completely master'

Amy Satterthwaite talks about what she's learnt in the game, her love of animals, and what it feels like to approach the 100-ODI mark

How did you come to play cricket?
I grew up watching my father play. I think the passion for the game just grew from there. I would sort of walk with a bat in my hand, and if anyone was around, I'd probably ask them to throw the ball at me. I grew up always wanting to be playing. I played with the boys at first, and as I grew older, I went to the boarding school and played with the all-girls team until I was about 13. So, yeah, I've played all my life and have been quite lucky that way.

Your father, Michael Satterthwaite, represented Canterbury and is a former chairman of Canterbury Cricket. How much of an influence has he been on your career?
He's played a big part in shaping my career. Obviously, first and foremost, getting me into the sport, and then he's always been extremely supportive and been there with me through all the teams I've played for. He's always been there, at the end of the phone, whenever I've needed. To this day, he's been a huge support for me. Although he took a step back from the coaching side of it once I got a bit older, he's always been a huge support to me until now and still is.

I think cricket is one of the sports that you can never really completely master and the beauty of it is that you can keep discussing new ways of going about it. I've enjoyed talking cricket with him.

Growing up, did you have a sporting hero you wanted to emulate?
I don't think I've ever settled on any one in particular. I've looked up to some of the greats and taken a bit of their play or sort of idealised the way they go about things. Ricky Ponting was always someone I looked up to - just the way he played the game and probably similar to the style of play I tend to have. I like Kumar Sangakkara as well. He's someone I've always admired in a big way, partly because he's left-handed (laughs) and also due to his elegant, fluid style of play.

A few months ago you equalled Sangakkara's record of four consecutive ODI centuries - the most in men's or women's cricket. What importance does this record hold to you?
There's certainly an element of it being very special, but at the same time, you always just try to do your best for the team and sometimes these records come. That's certainly a nice achievement but it can come about only if the situation arises - when you are chasing a big score or batting first, and I think also the way your team-mates play at the other end. When they play positive cricket, they take a lot of pressure off you. So a lot of different elements have to come together to allow it happen. Kumar Sangakkara's a world-class player, so to be mentioned in the same sentence with him is pretty special.

"Ricky Ponting was always someone I looked up to - just the way he played the game and probably similar to the style of play I tend to have"

In that run, you scored an unbeaten 137, an unbeaten 115, and a 123 against Pakistan. About three months later, you got to your fourth successive century - 102 not out against Australia, chasing 276 in the Rose Bowl opener. Do you have a favourite among these hundreds?
That's a difficult question to answer. In the third century against Pakistan, I was seeing the ball like a beach ball. Every shot kind of came out from the middle of the bat. But then, the one against Australia was equally special for different reasons. I had a lot of cramps during that game, was in a bit of pain, so to just stride through, get the runs and also to chase down such a big total against a quality side was really good.

Since the beginning of 2016, it's been quite a phenomenal run for you. You finished the 2016-17 season with 935 runs from 14 innings, including four hundreds and four fifties, at an average of 103.88. Is there any change in your approach to the game you attribute your recent success to?
I think the mental side of my game is something I've looked at quite hard. Being more confident about my game has helped me in a big way. I've tried to utilise the crease better and, at the same time, playing a lot more cricket has played a major role. If you look at the last 12 to 18 months, I've played a lot of domestic cricket at home, a lot of internationals, played in the KSL and the Big Bash. More cricket has meant spending more time being in the game, thinking about the game and executing the changes in shot selection, in strength training and just being in a good space in the head.

In the World Cup opener against Sri Lanka you went past 3000 ODI runs. Does becoming the third highest run-getter for your country during a World Cup make the accomplishment more special?
I guess it's part and parcel of the sport we play. We often look at them and recognise them, but at the end of the day, you are always trying to be the best athlete that you can be and put your best performance for the team. To me, personal achievements are, any day, secondary to what you achieve for the team, the success you taste as a team. Getting to that 3000-run mark in the World Cup lends a bit more meaning to the milestone, sure, but not so much as getting the team's campaign underway with a win.

Do you remember when you got the call-up for your international debut way back in 2007?
It's a bit of a blur - if I was at a camp or elsewhere. It's a bit difficult for me to go that far back (laughs) but I remember getting a phone call about my selection. There was everything that comes with such phone calls - a huge sense of pride, excitement and nerves - a mixed sort of an emotion. Knowing that you've done a lot of hard work, you've persevered, you just can't wait to put on that black shirt. It was certainly no different for me. To be able make my debut against Australia as well - I couldn't have asked for a better start.

Satterthwaite and Bates are the most productive partnership for New Zealand Women: "Watching her go as a player and also as a captain has been a great learning experience" © Getty Images

You are on the cusp of becoming the ninth New Zealand women's player to make 100 appearances in ODIs, and in less than a month, you're going to complete ten years of your international career. What do you make of this journey?
Every time someone talks about bringing up your 100th game, you probably start reflecting a little bit on how long you've been involved in the game. It makes you realise how much work you've put in to be able to play that long. Looking back on it, I think there have been a lot of ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and times I've thought of giving the game away. To realise that I'm still playing, fighting and loving the game, it feels as good as when I just started. I think it's come about because of the way the game has progressed and also because of the way the teams are playing. The IWC [ICC Women's Championship] has made the standard of cricket better and better and the competitiveness just keeps growing. I've rediscovered the joy of playing time and again.

Tell us about the times when you felt like taking a step back from cricket.
Yeah, probably when I was 24 or 25. Things were a little bit tough then. I think when you are not performing, it's always easy to consider giving the game away. I don't think I was enjoying it as much as I could have. But I'm glad I was able to push through all the difficulties, whatever they were, and find my love for the game again. I started deriving more joy out of the game since then, and haven't had those thoughts of late.

As you get older, a lot of people start asking, "Are you planning to retire?" Four years ago, I looked at this World Cup as something I was aiming for, perhaps as something of a finality. But now that I'm here and I'm still loving the game, I think it will keep me around for a bit longer than I had thought. I'm grateful for all the opportunities that have come about in the last couple of years. I'm certainly not willing to hang up my boots just yet.

Do you set yourself personal targets, in terms of scoring runs over a period of time?
That's something I used to do as a youngster. As I grew older, I stopped doing that and focused more on persistence and having the right game plans in place. If I get that right, then scoring runs can take care of itself. At times, when you set yourself targets and can't meet them, you can put undue pressure on yourself. Thus, when you step on the field, you feel like you've failed, you start questioning your abilities. Over the years I've learnt it's more important to have faith in your power of persistence and game plan. Scoring runs will happen on its own.

Before devoting yourself full-time to cricket, you worked full-time with a veterinary clinic. Talk us through that choice of job.
I worked at Selwyn Rakaia [Veterinary Services Ltd] for seven years, starting in 2008. Anyone that works at a job while playing cricket at the international level is always very fortunate to have employers who allow them to go away on tours. I had fantastic employers back then who allowed me to do both: I used to help out the vets and then ended up working in the office near the end of my time there. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

"The mental side of my game is something I've looked at quite hard. Being more confident about my game has helped me in a big way"

You were offered one of the first-ever semi-professional women's contracts by New Zealand Cricket in April 2013, but you turned it down, saying it wasn't for you at that time. What was the rationale behind that decision?
It was when I was involved with the clinic. I think at the time it was going to be a cut in terms of what I was earning. I think I felt I had the reasonable balance between having a job and being able to train. I didn't quite feel like I'd be able to make a living off the money. So I decided to continue in the direction I was going.

Down the track I've had the wonderful opportunity with being able to work part-time with Canterbury Cricket and have a contract with New Zealand Cricket. The balance has been fantastic: to be able to play cricket and play around the world. But I've been pretty fortunate in the way things have evolved over the last few years and being able to take a step back from full-time employment and move more and more into cricket.

Many of your Facebook and Twitter profile pictures alternate between posing with dogs and posing with monkeys. Is that because of your stint at the vet clinic?
(Laughs) I have always had a passion for animals. I grew up on the farm, so that's where it's come from. I love being around animals, no matter what animals they are.

Do you have a pet?
Yeah, I've got a kitten called Oscar at the moment. It's always difficult being away so much time of the year. But having a pet is something I've always loved.

England must be a special place for you. After being left out in the first two T20Is during the 2007 tour, you set up New Zealand's 38-run win with figures of 6 for 17.
At the time I couldn't believe it. To be honest, even looking back on it now, I still struggle to believe it happened, especially considering T20 was a new format back then. It was sort of one of those days where everything you do goes in your favour. It was indeed a pretty surreal kind of a day. I hadn't bowled before that so maybe they didn't know what my strengths were and so I ended up with figures like that. (laughs)

"We had a lot of medium-pacers [in Canterbury] and I mucked around with them for a while and then tried spin. It's turned out all right so far, I guess" © Getty Images

What made you switch to offspin? When did that transition come about?
I changed over a couple of years ago. It probably came about back home, playing for my domestic side [Canterbury Women] and evolved from a bit of competition there. We don't have many spinners in our team. You often know that spin can play a big part in a player being successful in the women's game. We had a lot of medium-pacers and I mucked around with them for a while and then tried spin. I didn't do it necessarily thinking I'd be bowling for New Zealand. I would bowl a few overs for the side here and there when it was needed. It's turned out all right so far, I guess. (laughs)

Earlier this year, you took the first hat-trick of the second WBBL, with 5 for 17 for Hobart Hurricanes against Sydney Thunder. Talk us through that five-for.
I've watched the replays of the hat-trick and wouldn't say I necessarily bowled my best deliveries. But cricket is a funny game - sometimes you bowl a terrific spell and don't have any wickets to show and sometimes you bowl average but end up on a bit of a roll. Especially in T20 cricket, when players are going a bit harder at the ball, you get such opportunities more often. I'd say it was one of those fortunate days when everything falls in your reach.

Your partnership with Suzie Bates is the most by any pair for New Zealand, and the third-most prolific across all countries. What sort of a camaraderie do you share with her?
I've played with Suzie for all of my career, really. I have known her as a phenomenal athlete who always leads from the front, as someone who keeps getting better and better. I think the captaincy probably strengthened her game in a way. It's made her think more and more about the game and from there she's just gone from strength to strength. She's certainly a world-class player who contributes to all facets of the game, and I've enjoyed playing with her over the years. We've shared a lot of big partnerships. Watching her go as a player and also as a captain has been a great learning experience.

You are part of the Kia Super League and the WBBL. What makes these leagues unique?
Both set very high standards, with a great mix of overseas players as well as home internationals and local talent as well. I think they are slightly different in the sense that the WBBL has 14 round-robin games, whereas the KSL has only five. You saw this year how the [Sydney] Sixers lost many games in the first half and in the back half of the season they won a lot and were able to get back into the competition. In the KSL, there only being five games, you've got to hit the ground running, play the best cricket from the get go, and play consistently through the tournament. That brings a different pressure, which is great in its own right and lends a different dimension to the tournament.

Tell us something about one of your team-mates from Lancashire Thunder and one from Hobart Hurricanes.
Deandra Dottin from Lancashire Thunder is a very explosive player. Having seen her over the years, you know she can tee off at any point. She offers a lot with the ball too, and she can change the game with her medium pace. Not many players are quicker than her across the ground either. She's someone you would rather have on your team than in the opposition because she brings a complete cricketer to any team. As for Hurricanes, I think that Heather [Knight] is very calm, experienced and leads from the front. She's a fantastic person to be playing alongside. The way she operates is great to watch as a team-mate.

"I have always had a passion for animals. I grew up on the farm. So that's where it's come from. I love being around animals, no matter what animals they are"

Who's your pick among the youngsters in the New Zealand side at present?
If you look at someone like Amelia Kerr, she burst onto the scene only a few months ago but looks like she's been around for a long time. That's a pretty scary thought, given she's only 16 and still at school. She's just someone who has a very level head on her. That always helps in getting a good start to one's professional career, because you can train skill sets, but being so strong in the mental side of the game at such a young age is really exciting.

Which has been your favourite country to tour?
I've always enjoyed going to India. I've enjoyed the people, the places. It's a different country to home.

Is there a dressing-room secret you'd like to share with us?
I don't think there's anything people don't know about. Katey Martin and Hannah Rowe have been taking care of that with our social media stuff. They bring a lot of life into the party when it comes to the dressing room.

Who is the biggest prankster in the New Zealand side?
It's Sophie Devine, definitely, when it comes to playing pranks. She's someone who likes to have a bit of a laugh and fun - that's her way of being a bit relaxed beyond the cricket field.

If you were not a cricketer, what would you have been?
Possibly a veterinarian. My love for animals would have made me gravitate towards them.

What's been your most memorable moment on a cricket field?
I think, any day, beating Australia is pretty special.

And the most embarrassing?
I bowled a no-ball in the Big Bash last year. For a spinner to bowl a no-ball is a bit of a no-no (laughs). So yeah, that's probably been the most embarrassing.

"Over the years I've learnt it's more important to have faith in your power of persistence and game plan. Scoring runs will happen on its own" © ICC

Name a fellow left-hand bat in women's cricket you like to watch.
[Smriti] Mandhana. She hits the ball extremely cleanly and makes it look effortless. For me, she is a really exciting talent coming through. Looks world-class.

Who is the most difficult batsman you have ever bowled to?
It has to be Meg Lanning. She has the record to show how good a player she is. Even if you bowl a straighter one, a good delivery, she'd like to take you on. She's certainly of the hardest to bowl to.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
To enjoy life and cricket and also to have a good balance. If you get glued to one thing you'll probably end up not being able to enjoy it as much. It's important to have a good balance and be happy.

You have gone through a fair share of ups and downs in your career. What are most important lessons cricket has taught you so far?
Having to play with different personalities, being able to adapt yourself well, is one of the key lessons I've got from cricket. When I first started, I was quite absorbed in cricket and always focused on it too much. But as I grew older, and slightly wiser, I realised I need to find that balance in life. Cricket has taught me if you enjoy things outside of cricket, you'll enjoy cricket even more.

If you were to be remembered for three qualities or achievements, what would you like them to be?
Consistency, reliability and being a good person on and off the field.

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   MIIY on July 14, 2017, 19:05 GMT

    Amy is very humble and down to earth. Lesson for all of us to learn.

  • cricro8852232 on July 14, 2017, 7:55 GMT

    Enjoyable read. Interesting and insightful questions, good responses. Detailed yet doesn't worn me out.

  • juhisi9632589 on July 14, 2017, 6:59 GMT

    I'm sure no sport in the world can be completely mastered!!

  • Anand on July 13, 2017, 17:58 GMT

    wonderful interview. indeed it seems she is not only playing at the highest level but also is enjoying at the highest level. good luck and best wishes

  • Anurag on July 13, 2017, 8:56 GMT

    I suppose I share her thoughts on the sheer joy of playing this sport over the years-- of course, sans the stamina, the strategies, the stages, or, most importantly, the skills. Having savoured the joys of this game in various capacities, as a participant as well as a spectator, I can vouch for the fact that it's one for the ages. I love the fact that the interviewer makes it a point to let us know that she 'laughs' after most of her answers-- that's what I'm talking about!

  • Alex on July 13, 2017, 5:05 GMT

    I have not analysed this NZ team. if nz smart , they should make devine as captain and should bat number 3. when chips are down Satterthwaite will play down well like ricky ponting did in counter attacking. Every time we thought aussies were down they were raised like phoenix. There is a connection. They are tigers. Nz is not going to win this world cup.

  • Geoff on July 13, 2017, 3:51 GMT

    Quality cricketer, and quality person. I hope she plays 100 more games for the White Ferns. Her record over the last two years is phenomenal. Its not easy to stop bowling medium pace and start to bowl spin, a true reflection in the benefit hard work and brilliant skill set.

  • dayaku2216664 on July 12, 2017, 13:20 GMT

    Amy's talents ten to come in phases I believe, at times, she does everything right in all the three departments and at times, it just doesn't click. But she's star around which the NZ W team revolves.

  • No featured comments at the moment.