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McLeod on cloud nine

Gaining selection in the New Zealand side for next month’s Women’s Under-19 T20 World Cup from one of NZ Cricket’s smallest districts, Wairarapa, is reward for a lot of hard work for the talented Emma McLeod.

The 16-year-old St Matthew’s student is one of the youngest members of the 15-strong squad for the tournament in South Africa. However, her form at the recent National Under-19 Championship in Lincoln, near Christchurch, was too good for the selectors to ignore.

McLeod finished with the most runs – 322, at an average of 64.40, with the highlight being an unbeaten 100 for Central Districts [CD] in their win over Canterbury in a 50-over fixture. She is also the only player from the CD side who finished runners-up at the tournament to make the cut.

Waiting for the phone to ring proved to be a nerve-wracking several hours for McLeod, and when the phone call came from the selectors, it was a relief.

“There are three White Ferns in the team, and three others who were eligible went to the development series in India, so it was fairly touch-and-go on who was eligible and how many spaces were open, and we had no idea, but it was really cool and very special, and I didn’t believe it,” McLeod said.

“I kind of put myself in a position where if I don’t get selected, I’m okay with that because I gave it my best shot.

“If I hadn’t batted so well and hadn’t made that big a contribution, I would be kicking myself and saying, what if, but I think in that position, it’s control what you can control, and it’s just up to the selectors and what they think of me.”

McLeod added that making the squad from CD, where getting the team together for training is difficult because of the widespread area, and from the small Wairarapa district with limited resources, has meant a lot of hard work but has made her selection extra special.

“We might not have the same facilities, and it’s a bit harder to find coaches and stuff, but we can still achieve the same thing … just with hard work.

“It hasn’t been given to me that much, and I’ve had to go search for people to help me out, and Doug Bracewell has been so amazing to help me out for free. I don’t have to give anything back. I did try giving him crayfish, but he doesn’t like crayfish.”

Although 262 of McLeod’s runs at the national tournament came in the one-day game, at an average of 131, she is confident she will adapt to the faster-paced T20 in Potchefstroom, on South Africa’s high veldt, as well as a change of batting position.

“I like the 50 overs because you can build an innings and dot it up a bit more. I do enjoy T20 just how fast it is. I really enjoy both formats, and I’m really keen to give this a decent go,” she said.

“I might be batting middle order, that’s my role, and it will be really interesting to see what I need to do because, obviously, I’m used to opening or being in the top four.

“I will try and contribute as much as I can and want to give it my best shot.”

Overall, McLeod hopes that the World Cup will be a step in the right direction for her future sporting career.

“It’s a really good building block for me, and it’s just an amazing opportunity because it’s somewhere outside New Zealand, and we’re playing people we’ve never played before and all different levels of cricket, and it will be really cool to soak up what I can.”

Also a talented hockey player, McLeod was one of the standout players for the Dalefield premier women’s side, and she said she is often asked which of the two sports she will pursue.

“I just think it varies between seasons; in the hockey season, I absolutely love it, and then in the cricket season, I love it.

“But where I’m going now, it’s definitely leaning towards cricket because there are so many more opportunities for women, like just development, there are teams like the under-19s and the development squads, and I just love the opportunity that cricket gives to people and especially with the pay rise for women.”

With no cricket before leaving for South Africa on January 4, McLeod is building up for the trip by training with the Central Hinds.

New Zealand will play Indonesia, Ireland, and West Indies, with the top three in the pool progressing to the Super Six stage.

McLeod won’t lack for support with mother Amanda travelling to South Africa for the tournament.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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