Cricket: Long and winding road to call-up

Leigh Kasperek at the University Oval yesterday with one of the tools of her trade. Photo by...
Leigh Kasperek at the University Oval yesterday with one of the tools of her trade. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Polish name, out of Edinburgh, now a New Zealand cricketer.

Meet Leigh Kasperek, the latest cricketer from Otago to make the national ranks.

Kasperek (23) was named yesterday in the White Ferns team to tour India next month, joining her representative team-mates captain Suzie Bates and bowler Morna Nielsen in the squad.

The off-spinner and dynamic fielder has taken a long and rather unorthodox journey to make the New Zealand side.

She was born in Edinburgh and started playing cricket - a bit of a minority sport in Scotland - when she was about 11. Kasperek stood out on the cricket pitch and was taken into a school sports academy.

At the same time, she was excelling at tennis, picking up some national titles.

''But you get to a certain age with tennis, about 15, and you have to decide whether you want to go pro. I didn't. I wanted to play other sports,'' she said.

So at 18, and having just left school, she headed for Perth.

Perth in Western Australia, not Perth in Scotland.

Although she was only 18, a trip to the other side of the world did not faze her.

She joined the Western Fury cricket side and played in the national Australian women's competition.

It was here that the Otago connection was born.

Playing in the same Fury team was Otago's Suzie Bates, and it was coached by former New Zealand national coach Steve Jenkin.

They encouraged her to come to New Zealand to try her luck and after a season in Wellington she has spent the past couple of years playing for the Sparks.

Playing nationally had always been at the back of her mind.

''After my first season, [NZ Cricket chairman of selectors] Kim Littlejohn suggested I hang around for a couple of seasons and think about my future.

''Scotland doesn't have any ODI status ... and I didn't want to play for England. I'm Scottish.''

Kasperek got a call on her phone last Sunday, while she was at the movies, and had to wait for the movie to finish to call back White Ferns coach Haidee Tiffen.

Tiffen said 23-year-old Kasperek was a bright prospect and thoroughly deserved her call-up.

Kasperek was surprised to get selected and had been in contact with her parents back home.

''I rang them quite early in the morning over there and I don't think they were quite awake.''

Kasperek, who worked as a cricket coach for the Otago Cricket Association, felt she was more consistent last season, which may have led to her selection.

Now she has cracked the team, she does not want to waste the chance.

''I just want to learn as much as possible when I'm over there.''


White Ferns team
to tour India

Suzie Bates (captain), Kate Broadmore, Sophie Devine, Natalie Dodd, Maddy Green, Georgia Guy, Leigh Kasperek, Morna Nielsen, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Rachel Priest, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu

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