Cricket: White Ferns captain Sophie Devine makes long-awaited return to NZ soil for home World Cup

Sophie Devine
Sophie Devine Photo credit: Getty Images

Sophie Devine will make her long-awaited return to home soil, as she links with the White Ferns - and domestic side Wellington Blaze - just seven weeks out from the NZ-hosted Women's Cricket World Cup. 

The Ferns skipper is back in camp with the national side and will bolster the already high-flying Blaze in Sunday's Super Smash doubleheader against Northern Brave at Whangarei.

Her appearance will mark Devine's first on a New Zealand pitch, since the White Ferns' opening T20 against Australia at Seddon Park last March.

Since then, she's led the White Ferns on their tour to England in September, before flying straight to Australia, where she powered Perth Scorchers to their maiden WBBL title and was named captain of the tournament team.

After taking a risk on the lottery system, Devine completed her two-week MIQ stint last week, just in time for this week's national camp at Nelson.

"I was like a lot of stranded Kiwis trying to get back into MIQ," says Devine. "I was in the ol' lottery... I was really fortunate to be able to grab a spot."

But the stress and uncertainty paid off for the 32-year-old, who feels she's returned an improved player and leader.

"It was huge for me. As a captain, I certainly took a lot of learnings away from it, being able to lead a team through a really tough competition and then to be able to perform at crunch time in front of 15,500 people.

"I think it will hopefully hold me in really good stead in terms of being able to stay calm under pressure. I think there's plenty of things I can take away from a captaincy and a playing perspective that I'm really looking forward to bringing back to this environment."

After the Nelson camp and watching the Super Smash from afar, Devine's more impressed than ever with the standard of the national side.

Sophie Devine celebrates the Scorchers' WBBL victory
Sophie Devine celebrates the Scorchers' WBBL victory. Photo credit: Photosport

"I'm glad I'm not a selector having to pick that final World Cup squad," says Devine. "This new group of talent coming through, they're really athletic… they've been able to invest more time [than my generation] in the gym training - getting stronger, fitter - and that's starting to show out here.

"You're seeing players clearing the ropes a lot more, which makes for a really exciting product for people to watch. I'm really excited, it certainly keeps me on my toes."

Devine's looking forward to her return to the unbeaten Blaze, who sit atop the Super Smash ladder with seven wins from seven outings.

"They've been dominant in the Super Smash, so for me, it's just about trying to add value.

"The great thing about the Blaze side is the depth that we've got and it's different people standing up. We obviously have Amelia Kerr and Maddy Green, but it's everyone else as well.

"Maneka Singh's been outstanding and you look at Rebecca Burns, so that's one of the real strengths of the Blaze."

Despite Wellington's dominance, Devine's not putting too much pressure on herself for her first appearance back.

"I probably need to hit a few more balls, after being cooped up in MIQ," she says. "Getting back on New Zealand grounds and pitches is something I'll need to adjust to."

Twelve months ago - almost to the day - Devine emerged from MIQ to smash record 36-ball century against Otago.