Women's game opens coach Warren Lees' eyes

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2014

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Warren Lees says he feels guilty when he looks back at how little interest he showed in women's cricket during his time in the sport.

Lees played 21 tests and 31 one-day internationals for New Zealand from 1976 to 1983, but he is probably best known as the coach of the 1992 New Zealand men's team that made it to the semifinals of the World Cup in on home soil. 

The semi-retired 61-year-old, who now lives in Clyde, last season stepped in to help when the Otago Sparks women's team did not have a coach.

The Sparks struggled but he returned this year to help them win Otago cricket's first national women's title since the 1962-63 season.

With the national White Ferns coaching job vacant for the current West Indies tour of New Zealand and the upcoming World Cup in Bangladesh, Lees was shoulder tapped and agreed to fill the role. "I'm sort of like the guy that just fills in when there is no-one else," he joked yesterday.

However, if he has his way, he will remain in the job for two years, giving him time to make his mark.

It has stemmed from a new-found appreciation for women's cricket.

"I think when I was 10 I used to practise with the Otago women's team but that's about it," he said.

"I felt really guilty because when I took the Sparks and when we went around domestically I was embarrassed that I knew so little about women's cricket. I did not know how good they were and when you look at [Sara] McGlashan, [Sophie] Devine and [Suzie] Bates they are very good players and I did not know that. So I always felt guilty about that.

"I mean if a whole lot of us men would go and watch them we'd all realise just how good they are - they are bloody good players. I also didn't realise how hard they train - they train bloody hard."

The magic touch that Lees had with the Otago women's team has extended to the national team.

New Zealand were well beaten by the West Indies in the West Indies late last year but have turned that around, winning the three one-day internationals played at Lincoln and then the two Twenty20 games played in Invercargill on Saturday and yesterday.

Yesterday, the White Ferns posted 133 batting first and then restricted the West Indies to 109 at Queens Park in Invercargill.

Not surprisingly, Lees is delighted and admits it has been a lot of fun.

"This team hasn't been a happy team, they got beaten by the West Indies in the West Indies and had a few other little things going on, so all I got told to do is to get them happy and win some games. Well, they are a happy side and we're winning some games so I'm loving it."

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The White Ferns-West Indies series will now head to Mt Maunganui where they will play two further Twenty20 internationals on Saturday and Sunday. Fairfax NZ

- Canterbury

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