Legendary White Fern Maia Lewis says it is an “exciting time” for Māori cricket as its evolution continues in Aotearoa.
Lewis (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Maniapoto), who made her international debut in 1992 for New Zealand, will coach the first Aotearoa Māori women’s side at the Pacific Cup in January.
She says Māori involvement has grown exponentially in recent years.
“When I was playing, there were few and far between. I would have to say it was probably me and Rebecca Rolls, and Rona McKenzie was the first Māori captain before me. And then we had the likes of Sarah McGlashan and Suzie Bates [since].”
Lewis and McGlashan attended the inaugural national Māori women’s tournament in Hastings last month. Five district teams competed for the Rona McKenzie trophy. The pair will name a squad of players from that tournament to play at the Pacific Cup. Lewis was impressed with the calibre of players who were on display.
Talent to be found on marae and in churches
“It just shows that there’s a lot more depth these days and I was really pleased with the standard of cricket there. There were a lot of sixes hit, and it was a really cool festival atmosphere. And I think there’s a lot of talent out there. Heaps more than we knew of.”
Lewis played 88 matches, including nine tests for New Zealand, across a 13-year career and is keen to see more Māori, men and women, involved in the game.
“There is that stigma where Māori don’t play cricket. We want to break down those stigmas and barriers and stuff. For me, I’m super passionate about this kaupapa and basically, Māori cricketers and Pacific cricketers have natural hand-eye co-ordination, and the game suits them, especially the T-20 game.”
The Pacific Cup in Auckland will see the Aotearoa side play against Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, Fiji and Samoa in the T-20 format, and Lewis would like to see more opportunities for the Aotearoa side into the future.
“I would like to see... the national tournament continuing as an annual fixture but getting stronger and stronger, and each province having its own team. As well, a potential annual fixture against the Australian Aboriginal teams would be great for both the senior Aotearoa Māori men’s and women’s teams.
“[I’d] like to see more push into marae, I suppose just going to the masses and see what talents are there as well, and even into the churches with Pasifika too. There is a lot of potential out there and, with the change at the helm with Diana Puketapu becoming the chairperson of NZ Cricket, that holds in good stead for wāhine and Māori into the future.”