Amelia Kerr helped the White Ferns to a big warm-up win over Australia. Photo / Photo port
It might sound strange to say of a player who in 2018 became the youngest cricketer to score an ODI double century, but this World Cup is shaping up to be a breakout tournament for Amelia Kerr.
The White Ferns will begin their quest to win a second World Cup today when they take on West Indies at Mount Maunganui, where Kerr will come in at No.3 and expect to win 10 overs.
The 21-year-old is ranked by the ICC as the fourth best all-rounder in the world, the highest rating for a Kiwi woman in any ODI category, and will be key in the hosts’ hopes of repeating their 2000 home triumph .
She is also, in both ability and character, an athlete perfectly placed to capture the nation’s attention over the next month.
Kerr’s potential was clear even before that record run four years ago, an unbeaten 232 against Ireland which remains the highest score in women’s ODI history.
She made her international debut shortly after turning 16, a rise that would not have surprised her teammates in the Tawa College boys’ first XI, for whom she opened batting.
Selection for the 2017 World Cup soon followed, an atypical experience for a teenager but arguably invaluable to her prospects of playing a starring role five years later.
“It was quite new for me – I had just started my international career,” Kerr said. “I absorbed it all and loved every moment.
“I had my family there for a while, which was special, and just traveling to England and playing cricket, it’s not really something you would think of doing at 16.”
This family was no stranger to a cricket ground. Kerr’s parents, Robbie and Jo, both represented Wellington while grandfather Bruce Murray played 13 Tests for New Zealand.
Kerr has also since been joined in the White Ferns by his older sister Jess, a fast bowler who supported from the sidelines at the last World Cup.
But that pedigree and early promise shouldn’t be interpreted as putting Kerr right at the top. A young player’s development never happens in a straight line, and Kerr is no different.
An unproductive period with the bat followed that double ton, growing pains one would expect of a teenager.
And much more importantly, Kerr stepped away from cricket last year to prioritize her mental health, a decision which, combined with her abundant talents, made her the type of sportswoman Kiwi children would be. good to watch closely.
But Kerr, who has remained a constant wicket-taking threat with his leg rotation, has for the past two seasons plundered domestic cricket runs for Wellington.
She’s translated that form to the international stage too, averaging 66 ODIs since the start of 2021. And Kerr appears to have found a home from the first drop since being elevated to that role for the series triumph. 4-1 last month against India.
“She really grabbed that position,” said White Ferns skipper Sophie Devine. “She’s been screaming for more opportunities in the batting order and the way she’s taken it over the last three or four weeks has been exceptional.”
Kerr scored 353 runs at a strike rate of 97 in the Indian series, completing those runs with seven wickets and nine strikes.
Next came a 92-for-75 hit in Tuesday’s warm-up win over Australia, giving the distinct impression of a player approaching her best with the same excellent timing she displays in the pregnant.
“I’ve been working on my stick behind the scenes for a long time and it’s probably a bit of an age issue and I just have consistent opportunities,” Kerr said. “That’s what I’ve had for the past two years with Wellington and now also with the White Ferns.
“I love my stick and I just want to be out there and score points. I’ve worked really hard on my game technically and how I want to play spin, just have options and be clear on my game plan.”
Kerr isn’t the only one getting in shape at the right time. The White Ferns will hope their results this summer mean they have shrugged off some struggles to truly struggle in their home tournament.
“I think this team, the last few years, has probably lacked a bit of conviction and confidence, because the last few years have been tough,” Kerr said. “But I think now with the Indian series and where we are as a group, we have that belief.
“We’re in a dangerous place as a group where people peak at the right time, and we have this confidence in ourselves and each other to go out there and play.
“We just enjoy each other’s company, so there’s nothing better than playing the sport you love with some of your best friends.”
Chief among Kerr’s is big sister Jess, someone she has played with at school, nationally and now internationally.
“We always say singing the national anthem next to each other is just an unbeatable moment,” Kerr said. “And to have mum and dad on the pitch as well, they have done a lot for us as parents and we are very grateful for their support.
“Going there to represent our country and our family is special.”