'If I can lead from the front, hopefully I can drag others along with me'

"I think a massive part is the mindset. The top two inches is the most important thing in cricket" Getty Images

If New Zealand allrounder and now captain Sophie Devine leaves the MCG on March 8 with the World T20 title, a mountain of runs to her name and a bag of wickets, her rivals from Australia and England will have had a significant part to play.

Devine, 30, enters the T20 World Cup in career-best form, ranked the world's No. 1 allrounder, equal with Ellyse Perry, and the world's No. 2 ranked batter.

The newly minted New Zealand captain became the first player, male or female, to reach 50 in five consecutive T20Is less than two weeks ago, completing a stunning sequence with her maiden T20I century against South Africa in Wellington to help the home side to a 3-1 series win after being clean-swept in the preceding ODI series.

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This came off the back of the WBBL, where she was the player of the tournament for her part in the Adelaide Strikers' run to the final. She was the leading run scorer of the WBBL and was joint fourth among the wicket-takers.

Devine partly credits her scintillating summer to a rare pre-season in Perth with Western Australia in Australia's Women's National Cricket League. The unusual opportunity came about through then WA coach and now England coach Lisa Keightley, who had previously worked with Devine at Loughborough Lightning in England's Women's Super League.

"The pre-season I had in WA was fantastic for me," Devine says. "It was the first pre-season I'd had in a number of years. So to be able to go back to basics and work day-in-day-out and with a great bunch of coaches [was great].

"Cricket can be a really fickle game, particularly T20. You can train the house down and feel a million bucks and get an absolute peach of a delivery and you're out for a golden duck"

"We didn't have anything New-Zealand-wise, so it was almost pure luck really. I don't think it happens too often [that] you invite Kiwis over, but I really do appreciate everything the WACA provided for me."

Devine only played four games for WA in the WNCL either side of her WBBL commitments with the Adelaide Strikers and her Wellington and New Zealand duties, but she had a profound impact on the group during the pre-season.

She made a match-winning century for WA against a Victoria attack featuring Australia trio Perry, Annabel Sutherland and Sophie Molineux in January. WA went on to win their first ever WNCL title last weekend against New South Wales, despite Devine and Keightley being absent.

She also credits her form to her Wellington mentor Christie van Dyk, who pushed her to become a more consistent player. "A lot of my success recently has to go to him. He's just really pushed me to be better, to want more for myself and to value my wicket," Devine says. "If you asked players about me a couple of years ago, they would have said, 'Could be a great player but just throws away her wicket a little bit.'

"So I instilled that in my training and in games - really valuing my wicket and wanting to be a batter and spending time at the crease. Looking at my strengths, I know I can have that power side of the game, but if I can be in for more than 10-12 overs, I can hopefully cause some damage."

Devine's consistency has been stunning. She made nine half-centuries in the WBBL in 16 innings at a strike-rate of 130.33. She then backed that up with a century and two more half-centuries for Wellington to win the Women's Super Smash, with the hundred for WA in between.

She rolled that form into her first official T20I series as captain of New Zealand. She says there was no magical technical or physical change in her preparation that has seen her game go up a level. The change was simply an attitudinal one.

"I think a massive part is the mindset," says Devine. "The top two inches is the most important thing in cricket, and that's been something that I'm really striving to want more from myself.

"The other really important thing is, cricket can be a really fickle game, particularly T20, in that you can train the house down and feel a million bucks and get an absolute peach of a delivery and you're out for a golden duck. I guess as long as you're consistent with your processes, your performance looks after itself.

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"That's certainly important for me as a captain, and even as a team-mate, just passing on that knowledge and experience I've gained. Cricket has plenty of ups and downs, and if you ride each and every one of them you're going to be pretty knackered from it. Staying consistent and level-headed and working as hard as you can helps performances out on the park."

Captaincy can be a burden for some players but Devine seems to be thriving, having taken over from Amy Satterthwaite. "I'm really honoured," she says. "Any opportunity you get to play for your country, let alone leading the team into battle, is special and something I don't take for granted.

"The key thing for me at the end of the day - I'm a player first. I'm an allrounder that wants to perform with bat and ball, and if I can do that, lead from the front, hopefully I can drag a few of the others alongside me. It's about me focusing on doing my role, what's required for the team at the time, and then worrying about the captaincy almost after that."

"If you asked players about me a couple of years ago, they would have said, 'Could be a great player but just throws away her wicket a little bit"

Her biggest challenge as captain will be how and when to bring herself on to bowl. She only bowled 8.5 overs in the four matches against South Africa, preferring to give others an opportunity.

"That's a challenge that any bowling captain has," Devine says. "I guess I'm really fortunate that I've got Suzie Bates in the team, who has obviously led the team for a long, long time, and really successfully, and I've relied a lot on her for her honesty and her thoughts. There have been times where she has literally thrown the ball to me and said, 'You need to bowl', and you do need to have that support and courage to bowl yourself. So having her on my shoulder helps massively.

"Though it's all about the match-ups. I might be ideal to bowl to someone but not against another team, but that's something we'll be looking towards in this World Cup."

Devine admitted New Zealand are entering the World Cup not knowing what their best side looks like, having used 15 players in the South Africa series. "I'm actually really comfortable with it," she says. "I think it's a really good thing for us. We've got plenty of options and that's what you want heading into these events. Then it just comes down to who the best match-up is. We've got 15 players who can all do a job."

She will lean on the experience of Bates, Lea Tahuhu and Rachel Priest through the tournament. But if her form and mindset are anything to go by, Devine is more than capable of carrying New Zealand on her shoulders, and perhaps even heading home with the trophy for the first time.