By Aiden McLaughlin
White Ferns all-rounder Hayley Jensen is enjoying her surroundings as I speak to her on the eve of the five match ODI series against India. The series was originally scheduled to take place in Napier, Nelson and finish up in Queenstown, but New Zealand Cricket made the decision in late January to have the series (as well as last Wednesday’s lone T20 against the same opposition) take place solely at John Davies Oval, in order to mitigate the risk of an Omicron outbreak that could threaten the fixtures.
‘It’s been actually really nice down here (in Queenstown). We’ve been really enjoying it down here. We’re really close to the lake so we can get out there and recover and have a bit of a swim around and sit there at night so it’s a pretty nice place to be in a bubble.’
Before switching her attention to the White Ferns, Jensen’s Otago Sparks side reached the final of this year’s Super Smash competition, where they were beaten by the Wellington Blaze. Despite that defeat, she was happy with the progress that squad of players made.
‘It was a really, really good season for the girls and I know they took a lot of confidence out of it. We’re a young side but we’ve got a few old heads in there now which is really good and Kate (Ebrahim) coming over from Canterbury (in the off season) really boosted our leadership group. The girls are loving the season and they’ve just grown so much over the last three years and to see the improvements that they’ve made it’s just been awesome for them especially Eden Carson, Emma Black, Sophie Oldershaw; they’ve come so far. I’m looking forward to the next seasons ahead for them. The Sparks are a really fun team to be around.’
It’s been just over a week since the squad for the World Cup was named. Although Jensen made her ODI debut in 2014, and played four matches for her country that year (all against the West Indies) a four year absence from the squad followed, meaning she missed the last 50 over World Cup that took place in England in 2017. Since her return in 2018, she’s been picked consistently, meaning that as she enters this series, she has 23 ODI appearances to her name.
The series against India provides an important opportunity for the squad to get time in the middle; they haven’t played together since their tour of England in September last year, where they lost the T20 series 2-1 and the ODI series 4-1 against strong English line-ups. It was also a bubble experience for the squad, a long way from home.
‘We’ve been to Australia and we’ve done a bubble over there (in September and October 2020) and we’ve been to England and done a bubble there but it’s kinda nice actually being in a bubble in your home country so you know all the nice takeaway coffee spots, where to go for takeaways and things like that. It’s just nice to be around each other in a familiar setting.’
Before hitting the nets and getting into game mode, the team were able to reconnect with each other and plan their tilt at this series and the bigger prize, which kicks off against the West Indies at Bay Oval on 4th March.
‘Before we came to Queenstown we had a little retreat in Akaroa. We just kinda went over what things we want to do as a team, how we want to play our game. It was good to just talk about what we want to do and it was nice to relax together. We had a few games in our mini teams and then we came here. It’s pretty nice being in a bubble actually, you get to do more things as a team, you’re closer together, you’re around each other a lot more and I think it actually brings us together because we can’t go off and do our own thing, we have to do it all together which is really nice. Everyone’s getting along really great, we’re having so much fun together and we’re all excited about this ODI series.’
With the age of squad members ranging from 17 years old (Fran Jonas) to 37 (Katey Martin), memories of the last World Cup on home soil in 2000 vary considerably. For Jensen, now 29 years old, there’s a very clear recollection, but not an obvious one.
‘I used to play club cricket for Lancaster Park in Christchurch and I remember Haidee Tiffin was in that team and she gave me a signed t-shirt. I don’t remember watching the final (Jensen was 8 years old at the time) but I just remember getting that signed t-shirt and thinking ‘gosh, this is the best thing ever’. I’ve heard so much about it (the final).’
At present, under the Red traffic light settings, event organisers across the country are having to restrict numbers attending to pods of 100 and although this would be disappointing for everyone associated with the tournament, it’s a reality that Jensen understands.
‘Hopefully we can do something similar (to the multiple pods of 100 being set up at other events) and get a decent crowd in, but even if we don’t have a crowd we’ll be out there enjoying ourselves anyway.’
The Black Caps had the time of their lives when they had a home World Cup in 2015 – hopefully it’s the turn of the White Ferns to experience the same.
White Ferns v India
Saturday 12th February
Tuesday 15th February
Friday 18th February
Tuesday 22nd February
Thursday 24th February
All matches start at 11am and are being played at John Davies Oval, Queenstown.
White Ferns at the Cricket World Cup
Friday 4th March: West Indies at Bay Oval, Tauranga (2pm)
Monday 7th March: Bangladesh at University Oval, Dunedin (11am)
Thursday 10th March: India at Seddon Park, Hamilton (2pm)
Sunday 13th March: Australia at Basin Reserve, Wellington (11am)
Thursday 17th March: South Africa at Seddon Park (2pm)
Sunday 20th March: England at Eden Park, Auckland (11am)
Saturday 26th March: Pakistan at Hagley Oval, Christchurch (11am)
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