Lara Maritz feels Netherlands series key for Ireland’s European Qualifiers’ preparation

Lara Maritz in action © Oisin Keniry

Ireland allrounder Lara Maritz feels the upcoming T20I series against Netherlands that’s scheduled to start on July 26 in Malahide will key for the home side as they continue to prepare for the European Qualifiers for the T20 World Cup 2023 in South Africa.

“This upcoming series is very important for us as a young team. We played well against Scotland and have worked really hard on our fielding, and I think that has opened a lot of eyes for our young team. We meet Scotland and Netherlands again in the European qualifiers next month so having these two series under our belt can only be good for us,” Maritz said.

20-year-old Maritz was part of the Ireland side when they returned to international cricket after a gap of more than 18 months to take on Scotland at home in May this year. She took two wickets from four matches and scored 32 runs as Ireland registered 3-1 win in the series. Maritz spend most part of the 18 months training in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic induced break.

“Running back out on the field in an Irish jersey back in May after such a long wait actually felt pretty strange at first,” she said.  “I had been in Australia for 18 months at that stage, so meeting up with the squad which featured some new faces was a strange feeling – but a great feeling. It’s such a privilege to play for your country and you have to use every opportunity given to you. That feeling I guess came through in the first game of that series but we soon regrouped and won the series well.”

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Ireland are further bolstered by the return of experienced wicket-keeper Mary Waldron and allrounder Eimear Richardson after having missed the series against Scotland. “Having Mary Waldron and Eimear Richardson back as well is a great bonus,” Maritz said.

Although only 20, Maritz already has played 25 matches for Ireland after making her debut in 2017 and was part of the side that played in the T20 World Cup 2018 in West Indies. She says playing with the experienced players during the time has helped her learn a lot about the game.

“It’s slightly strange, but I feel like I am senior member of the squad despite being still 20. I have a job to do for my team, and I have gained a lot of experience playing at a World Cup where I learnt so much playing alongside the likes of Ciara Metcalfe, Clare Shillington, Isobel Joyce and Cecilia Joyce – it was such an honour to get that opportunity before they retired. They knew so much about the sport, and just observing the work ethic of a player like Isobel helped a lot,” Maritz added.

Maritz, who has taken 17 wickets in her international career so far, said the time she spent in Australia was a great opportunity to develop her game as she trained with the likes of Sophie Devine and Megan Schutt.

“My time in Australia was amazing. I went over in September 2019 and returned in March 2021. It was longer than expected, of course, but what an experience it was. My goal is to become an allrounder for Ireland, so I put in a lot of hard work in Australia, particularly into my batting,” Maritz said about her time in Australia.

“It was a great experience to play at the WACA and learn from the best over there. I initially went over as part of the ICC Development Team, where I had the opportunity to learn skills from the likes of Megan Schutt and train with Sophie Devine – that was pretty special. I was also given the opportunity to play an inter-squad match with the Western Australian side, which was also a huge learning curve for me.”

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Maritz has also started working in her new role as the development officer in the Fingal County region and she believes it’s important to build clear pathways for young kids to let them continue playing the sport.

“We just don’t have enough kids playing the sport and staying in the game. The age group between 13-18 years is very important, and we need more support and structure around this age group to help them continue to love the sport. If they can’t see opportunities, they leave the sport behind. I believe a clear pathway will help them see that there is a structure in place for opportunity. I’ve only recently started this job, so there is a lot of work still to do on my behalf, but that is my ambition for the next few years,” she concluded.