Wellington [New Zealand], January 20 (ANI): Wicketkeeper-batter Bernadine Bezuidenhout, who last played for New Zealand in January 2020, has been recalled to the squad for the ICC Women's T20 World Cup in South Africa.
The 29-year-old returns to the New Zealand squad after a two-year break from cricket to focus on recovering from RED-S (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport) a condition that affects many female kiwi athletes.
Her inclusion is the only change to the squad that faced Bangladesh in three T20s and three ODIs in December, with wicketkeeper Jess McFadyen missing out.
Bezuidenhout has impressed since returning to the field this summer, scoring her second List-A century for Northern Districts in the opening weekend of the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield, and earning selection for the New Zealand XI side which faced Bangladesh in one-day and T20 warm-up matches in November.
New Zealand head coach Ben Sawyer said Bezuidenhout would bring a lot of skill and experience to the New Zealand group.
"For the past seven or eight months we've been looking to establish a brand of cricket which we believe spectators will enjoy and, at the same time, gives us the best possible chance of success in major tournaments," said Sawyer in an official statement released by New Zealand Cricket.
"With both the bat in hand and her work behind the stumps, we believe that Bernie will contribute positively to that style of play. Bernie has already shown this season what she can do with both bat and gloves, and we think that her previous international experience will stand her in good stead in this World Cup," he added.
"She has gone on quite a journey to return to cricket this season and we're really looking forward to welcoming her back into the WHITE FERNS environment," said Sawyer.
Bezuidenhout, who made her international debut for South Africa in 2014, has played nine T20s and nine ODIs for the WHITE FERNS since qualifying to represent New Zealand and debuting in 2018.
She last featured for the WHITE FERNS in an ODI against South Africa in Auckland in 2020.
The remainder of Sawyer's T20 World Cup squad has a familiar feel to it, with 13 of the 15 players bringing one-day or T20 World Cup experience.
Sophie Devine will captain the side which features the familiar faces of Suzie Bates, Maddy Green and Melie Kerr.
Devine has not featured for the Wellington Blaze in their last three Super Smash fixtures as a precaution due to a minor foot injury, but is fit to travel to South Africa.
Otago Sparks off-spinner Eden Carson and Auckland Hearts seamer Molly Penfold have both been named for their first official ICC World Cups.
Wellington Blaze batter Georgia Plimmer and Auckland Hearts left-arm spinner Fran Jonas, who are currently in South Africa for the Under 19 Women's World Cup, will remain in South Africa and join the New Zealand group when they arrive.
Jonas withdrew from the Under 19 squad earlier this week due to a minor calf injury but will be fit in time for the senior World Cup.
Lea Tahuhu, Hayley Jensen, Jess Kerr, and Hannah Rowe provide seam and pace options with the ball, while Lauren Down and Brooke Halliday, who returned to the Northern Brave last weekend following a hand injury, bring depth with the bat.
New Zealand meet defending champions Australia in Paarl for their tournament opener on February 11. They finished behind their trans-Tasman rivals and India at the last Women's T20 World Cup, narrowly missing out on a semi-final place.
Squad: Sophie Devine (c), Suzie Bates, Bernadine Bezuidenhout, Eden Carson, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Molly Penfold, Georgia Plimmer, Hannah Rowe and Lea Tahuhu. (ANI)