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A Season of Uncertainty: Sydney Thunder’s Sam Bates

Mary Konstantopoulos catches up with Sydney Thunder’s Sam Bates on the challenges they have faced early in WBBL07, and the value of Hannah Darlington’s leadership.

Sam Bates is an inaugural member of the Sydney Thunder's WBBL team. Sourced: Sydney Thunder
Sam Bates is an inaugural member of the Sydney Thunder’s WBBL team. Sourced: Sydney Thunder

The Sydney Thunder have certainly had one of the more peculiar WBBL07 draws.

The Thunder commenced their WBBL07 campaign on Saturday 16 October with a 30 run loss to the Adelaide Strikers and then had to wait a week for their next scheduled match against the Sydney Sixers. Unfortunately this match was abandoned due to rain. The next day, the Thunder played again and lost by 81 runs to the Perth Scorchers.

The hard work for the reigning champions is only beginning with a schedule that will see them play four games over a six day period this week. 

But for Thunder spin bowler Sam Bates, the challenge of scheduling is part of a WBBL season which players are grateful to have.

“We’re not the only ones with a tough draw with the Melbourne Renegades having to travel to five different locations to play in this season,” said Bates.

“It’s just the luck of the draw.

“As athletes we do find it hard to train for uncertainty, so although the draw is going to be a challenge, it was good to know we were training for a purpose and able to get the Big Bash up and running for this year.”

Despite a heavier schedule towards the middle of the season, one of the benefits of not playing much cricket in the first week is that the Thunder squad had plenty of time to get to know each other.

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This is important given how different the squad looks as compared to last year. 

There are plenty of new faces in the team including Corinne Hall, Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma and Issy Wong.

But also some notable omissions including English internationals like Tammy Beaumont and Heather Knight and South African international Shabnim Ismail. Additionally on the eve of the tournament, Rachael Haynes declared herself unavailable in order to spend more to prioritise her family, with Haynes and partner Leah Poulton welcoming baby Hugo just a couple of weeks ago. 

“So many of us have been in prolonged lockdowns before coming to compete in the WBBL so it took me a while to remember how to socialise,” said Bates.

“It’s been great getting to know each other again and bonding before we head into a really intense and dense period of cricket.” 

Just like everyone, Bates has had her own challenges due to the pandemic. 

“I’m based in Victoria so it means that I had basically no cricket in the off season,” said Bates.

“That’s why I am so focused on enjoying my cricket this summer.

“I haven’t had the chance to see my family in a long time so it’s been good to enjoy the company on the field and just enjoy my cricket.”

It’s fair to say that the season hasn’t started off as planned for the Thunder. Yet to register a win, the Thunder will be chasing their first victory when they play the Melbourne Stars later today. 

But no doubt, just as the team did following their first loss against the Adelaide Strikers there will be a conversation as to what has gone right and what has gone wrong so far. No doubt a key focus will be on the batting performances with the Thunder falling well short of the 140 runs the Strikers scored and the 186 runs scored by the Scorchers on Sunday. 

This will require leadership and fortunately for the Thunder, despite Haynes’s absence from the team this year, by all accounts 19 year old Hannah Darlington is doing an incredible job leading the team. 

“Hannah was always destined to be a leader, she does it so well and so naturally,” said Bates.

“Unfortunately we can’t have Rachael this season which means a big hold both on and off the field, but Hannah has her own way of bringing the group together.”

“People tend to forget that she is only 19 years old but despite her age she is one of those people that can lead a whole team well and it makes people want to follow her.”

For Bates, it is Darlington’s passion for teaching that is one of the reasons she is such an exceptional leader.

“Hannah is a proud Indigenous woman. She is extremely passionate about her background and wants to teach everyone about her culture,” said Bates.

“She manages to bring the community together in a way which also allows her to show what a passionate leader that she is.” 

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