It so happens that you usually fall in love with a particular sport, and then pick your favourite players to follow. When it came to women's cricket, however, it was the opposite for me: My favourite players — the cheery Australian all-rounder Ellyse Perry, the classy southpaw Smriti Mandhana, and the bubbly Bandra girl Jemimah Rodrigues, probably in that order — have made me change my mind about the women’s game at the international level.
There was this India probable in my nets a few years ago and she would bat regularly against the Under-16 and Under-14 boys of my team. There were two bowlers among them who were quite nippy for their age group; possibly in the range of 120-125 kph. That girl, who had scored heavily in inter-state matches, would request me not to allow them to bowl to her, as she wouldn’t be facing such a pace at the national level in women’s cricket.
Things have now changed. Tales of derring-do by players like Meg Lanning, Sarah Taylor, Mithali Raj, Marizanne Kapp, Stefanie Taylor and a few others, in recent years, have left me in awe of the modern women’s game.
Cricket’s pundits believe that Ellyse Alexandra Perry, who will turn 29 on 3 November, will be remembered as one of the finest all-rounders to have played the game, whenever she decides to call it a day. Former England skipper Charlotte Edwards is even emphatic about the Aussie being “the greatest the women’s game is ever going to see".
Perry made her one-day international debut when she was only 16 years and eight months old, a few months before she had even played for her senior state team. She thus became the youngest cricketer – male or female – to play for Australia. Her debut match was against New Zealand, in Darwin, in July 2007. She then made her maiden appearance in T20 internationals and Tests in 2008.
Pez, as she is known in the team, is an outstanding performer across all forms of the game. In eight Test matches she has piled up 624 runs @78.00, with two hundreds and a highest score of 213 not out. She has also picked 31 wickets @18.19 apiece with best bowling figures of 6-32. In 112 ODIs, she has scored 3022 runs and has picked 152 wickets, while in 111 T20 internationals, she has 1101 runs and 106 wickets. She has also been part of the Australian side that has won the limited overs world cup, as well as the T20 one.
Perry has a winner’s mindset. She is a team player, and on an individual level, she believes in contributing to the best of her ability.
At the crease, she is a picture of composure. Very strong on the back-foot, she plays the flick to square-leg, the pull-shot to mid-wicket and the square-cut with consummate ease. The fluidity in her batting is evident in her drives past mid-on and through covers. She is never afraid of lofting the ball over long-on, displaying a strong bias for bottom-handed strokes. Besides, she is a brilliant out-fielder.
Michael Holding, the Rolls Royce of fast bowling, is Perry’s idol. Not surprisingly then, she bowls at a brisk pace with a smooth run up, a nice hop, and a high arm action that allows her to keep her wrist straight and firm. The deliveries that skid through – the odd one seaming away – are interspersed with big, curling inswingers, bowled with an open action and an exaggerated flick of the wrist.
Lean and lithe at 5'9", Perry is physically and mentally tough. In school she played cricket, football, tennis, rugby and golf, and took part in athletics too. Amazingly, Perry is a double international, having played football for Australia. She made her international football debut only a month after her maiden international appearance in cricket. She represented her country in the FIFA Women’s World Cup of 2011 and in the Olympic qualifiers. Deciding to give up football to focus her attention fully on cricket has paid her rich dividends. She has taken her bowling and batting to the next level since 2013.
Perry’s unbeaten 213 in the day-night Ashes Test in 2017 at the North Sydney Oval and her 116 in the Ashes Test at Taunton in 2019 were both classy knocks that firmly established her as one of the finest when it came to batting. Considered to be more of a bowling all-rounder, though, her 289 wickets across all formats are testimony to her dominance with the ball. In the T20 format, she is perhaps the only cricketer to have scored 1,000 runs and picked 100 wickets.
Perry’s ambition is team-oriented; individual records don’t matter to her, though she has won a host of awards for her performances. “Success as a team is what I enjoy most,” she says, “Individual records will eventually be broken, but the enjoyment that one gets out of winning a world cup or a series of matches, as a team, can’t be surpassed.”
Success hasn’t spoilt Perry. The owner of a couple of cafes in Australia, she is studying Economics and Social Sciences at university. She also writes books for children!
Happy birthday to the brand ambassador of modern women’s cricket!
The author is a caricaturist and sportswriter. A former fast bowler, coach and sports administrator, he believes in calling a spade a spade
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