Cricket: Spark ignites at hockey too

Sparks rookie Polly Inglis: "I want to play for New Zealand and represent my country but it is...
Sparks rookie Polly Inglis: "I want to play for New Zealand and represent my country but it is the same with hockey as well." Photo by Linda Robertson.
Polly Inglis seems destined to shine on the sporting stage - but whether it is in cricket, hockey or football is not yet clear.

The talented 16-year-old has represented Otago at age-group level in hockey and football, and is in her rookie season with the Otago Sparks.

She made her debut on Friday in a twenty/20 fixture against Auckland in Invercargill. The right-hander did not get a chance to bat as Katey Martin and Suzie Bates made light work of the run chase.

In the following one-day matches, she batted at No6 and scored 7 and 14 - a promising rather than hugely successful debut, you might say. However, coach Warren Lees and team-mate Sarah Tsukigawa rate the youngster highly.

They believe the teenager has the raw talent, drive and pedigree to succeed. The only problem is, she is a handy hockey and football player as well.

Her older brother, Hugo Inglis (21), is a striker for the Black Sticks and Polly is keen to follow in his footsteps.

Hockey is her favourite sport but she enjoyed her debut for the Sparks.

"It is lots of fun and the team culture is real good, so that's cool," she said.

"The leadership team was really helpful and made it easy to settle in."

Polly roomed with White Ferns and Sparks captain Suzie Bates for the Invercargill trip but said she had not had a chance to ask the dual cricket and basketball international how she had managed to balance both sports for so long.

Bates agreed to put basketball on hold when she accepted the New Zealand captaincy in December last year but up until then had split her time between the codes.

"I want to play for New Zealand and represent my country but it is the same with hockey as well," Inglis said.

Hugo is an obvious inspiration but "Suzie is a big role model" as well.

"With her being a double international, I look up to her heaps. It is what I want to do."

Polly got her start in cricket playing against brothers Hugo and Henry (24) in the family backyard. There was a proper strip and everything, and the long narrow yard rewarded the fledgling cricketers for playing nice and straight.

Polly complained she did not get to bat first very often and was mostly used as an extra fieldsman while her brothers battled. But those backyard games captured her imagination.

She starting playing organised cricket as a 7-year-old against the boys, and now opens the batting and keeps wicket for St Hilda's Collegiate.

The Sparks play Canterbury in a twenty/20 game this afternoon and in back-to-back one-day games on Saturday and Sunday.

The team had a good win against Auckland in its opening twenty/20 match on Friday but lost the two following one-dayers.

Canterbury shapes as a tough opponent but, just quietly, the Sparks have high hopes this season.

"Warren, our coach, has said that we will be there for the final weekend. He's booked that in, so hopefully we'll be there."


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