Green bats away White Ferns doubts

After a nervy start, the new White Ferns vice-captain is finally coming of age as an international cricketer. Suzanne McFadden reports.

Maddy Green, the new vice-captain of the White Ferns, has a head for numbers.

A self-confessed cricket geek, Green loves talking about the technical side of the sport. Away from the pitch, she works with figures, as a banking analyst.

But statistics have also made Green’s cricketing career a hard slog at times.

An international cricketer since she was just 19, Green admits that she's had her struggles with the mental side of the game.

Her numbers weren't always pretty, battling to break the half-century mark with the bat in internationals. She’d dwell on a poor performance too long, and be plagued by doubts that she wasn’t good enough to be a White Fern.

But, at 26, Green has matured, got her life in balance, and now sees the game with a new perspective. She's also thrived with the extra responsibility of leadership.

Green is learning to absorb the pressure and make the most of it, and has a personalised routine she goes through between every ball she faces at the crease.

And that’s now reflecting in her numbers. Last season, the Auckland Hearts captain was awarded the Ruth Martin Cup, as the most outstanding batswoman in New Zealand domestic cricket.

In June, Green played a leading role in New Zealand’s 490-4 innings against Ireland – the highest score ever recorded in one-day international history, by a men’s or women’s side.

Green smashed 121 off 77 balls – “the favourite knock of my life so far,” she declared afterwards – revelling in her time at the crease with then captain Suzie Bates, who blasted 151. Green had finally broke through the 50 mark, and then some.

The last 12 months have given her the self-belief that she's good enough, Green says. “The personal challenge for me now is being able to back that up. At a domestic level, I’ve proved myself. Now I want to convert that to international cricket, and play my best under pressure.”

She also wants to make her mark in the White Ferns vice-captaincy role, as the New Zealand side leave next week for the Women’s World T20 championships in the West Indies.

As a teenager, Green made an impact as a promising all-rounder – a powerful right-hand bat and an off-spin bowler. She grew her reputation as an exceptional fielder, too.

The 19-year-old made her debut for the White Ferns in a T20 against Australia in 2012, contributing a valuable 14 runs in New Zealand’s final-over win. But, with a wealth of strong top-order batswomen and all-rounders, Green struggled to command a permanent place in the White Ferns.

“It was really tough. I’ve always been hard on myself and, at first, I didn’t think I was good enough. In the first two or three years of my career, that really held me back,” she says.

“I’d think, ‘Wow that’s Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates, they’re such amazing players - am I really good enough to be here?’ A bit of self-doubt, I think, is quite normal when you’re young.”

That's why Green now looks at her 18-year-old team-mate Amelia Kerr, the world record holder for the highest score in one-day cricket, with awe.  “She’s amazing - so calm, and confident, in no way arrogant – and that’s why she’s been so successful,” Green says.

For the last two years, Green has been a constant in the White Ferns' fold. She’s been working on mastering the psychological side of her game with mental skills coach Rod Corban, making sure she sticks to routines when she’s in a pressure situation.

“The middle order can be a pretty tough place to bat,” Green says. “You either come in and the team is doing well, and you need to go from ball one. Or you come in and the team’s in trouble. It’s about being able to put myself in those situations and adapt.

“There’s not one sportsperson who doesn’t feel pressure. So how do you absorb it and make the most of it?”

She has her own little routine she goes through between every ball and every over.

“I try to walk away, switch off a bit, try not to get caught up in what happened with the very last ball – whether I was dropped, or hit a six. I try to get back to the same mental state, create a level of calmness, so I can really focus and concentrate on the next ball,” she says.

Maddy Green on her way to scoring 23 in the White Ferns' four-wicket ODI win over England in July. Photo: Getty Images

In training, she tries to put herself in situations where she feels uncomfortable – in the nets facing the slick pace bowling of Leah Tahuhu, or the tricky leg-spin of Kerr.

“If I can handle that in training, hopefully it makes things easier out in the middle too,” Green says.

Balance in life has also been good for Green. After studying accounting and finance at the University of Auckland, she now works for ANZ as an analyst in the institutional relationships team. As sponsors of the White Ferns, her bank employers understand when she needs time off. 

“It’s so good to have something outside of cricket. If I go away on a tour, and maybe it hasn’t been so great for me personally, then I have something else to focus on,” she says.

With maturity has also come self-belief. "Every good performance goes into my memory bank of feeling good about cricket. Contextually now, if I have one bad innings I don’t sit there and stew on it for a week. I look at it objectively, rather than get so emotionally caught up in it.

“Cricket is a funny game – such an individual sport within a team sport. The best players in the world are those who are mentally so strong and consistent.

“It’s something I will have to keep working on for the rest of my career, I think.”

Green has also blossomed as a leader in recent years, not hindered by the extra responsibility.

She led the Auckland Hearts by example last season, anchoring the batting in the upper order; her captaincy helping the Hearts win the national one-day competition and finish runners-up in the T20 domestic competition (now known as the Super Smash).

She was honoured, she says, to recently be given the vice-captaincy role in the White Ferns, but acknowledges the “fantastic bunch of leaders within the team”.

“I try to work with players to drive the direction of where we want to head, and support Amy [new captain Amy Satterthwaite] as much as I can,” she says. “I’m really keen to keep learning from all sorts of people.”

Green is in Christchurch this weekend, leading the Hearts in the Super Smash (yesterday’s opening matches were rained out). All of the White Ferns are playing for their provincial sides at the tournament as a final rundown before leaving for the T20 world championships, which start on November 9.

“Women’s T20 has really taken off around the world, and it’s developed the women’s game at such a rate of knots,” says Green. “The more we can play T20 matches in our domestic teams, the bigger the scores we’ll get, and the more skilled our batters and bowlers will be.

“We want to take what we learn from the international tours back to our provinces and help up-skill all the girls, not just the White Ferns.

“This weekend, the challenge is to take it to each other as White Ferns – and make it as competitive as possible.”

The White Ferns’ latest performances – losing all three T20 internationals to Australia earlier this month – gave the team food for thought, Green says.

“We wanted to be able to benchmark ourselves against the best team in the world. We performed well in patches, but definitely not consistently enough. It just showed there’s a little work to do before heading to the World Cup,” she says.

“But that’s a positive thing. We didn’t want to feel we'd peaked a month out. Our plans are good and we’ve made progress.

“Australia and England have a heck of a lot more resource than we do in New Zealand, and they are full-time professionals, so it’s about how can we be smarter?  We’ve got a really good side and we’re not going to back down.”

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