Transparency is not a quality you want in your leg-spinner. Guile, deception, and chicanery are the keys to success in that trade, but Amanda Jade Wellington has little of that.
By her own admission, she struggles with the googly. Her appeals can be polite, and need to be propped up by volume from behind the stumps. In the first ODI at Vadodara, Wellington dropped her hands halfway through a shout for LBW against Punam Raut, after which the umpire promptly raised the finger. But it seems with Wellington, what you see is what you get. Not surprising for one who spends her free time in the company of animals.
“I like to play (an apt way to start after being pulled aside from the Australian warm-up game of trampoline volleyball) with animals,” she says. Wellington spent a work placement at the zoo in her home city of Adelaide, and hopes to study animal studies (“I have a connection with animals,” she says).
But that’s for when she gets a breather. Right now, studies are on hold as she is busy taking Indian wickets.
Wellington has five wickets in the two ODIs against India so far. And she seems to deal in big names: Harmanpreet Kaur, Raut and Veda Krishnamurthy (twice) feature among her victims. They fit nicely next to seasoned names like Suzie Bates and Mignon du Preez. Not bad for an accidental leggie.
“When I was a kid, I bowled pace until I broke my arms off the monkey bars and then started bowling spin.”
What? Come again? Broken arms? Monkeys? Pace? Spin? Slow down, you think, because this story is going really fast, 26 wickets in 17 international games across three formats and just as many continents. And Wellington is just 20 years old.
So she slows it down, like one of her legbreaks in the dry and hot Baroda air. “As I kid I thought I was Superman,” she says, “and I did a flip off the monkey bars and landed flat on my face. I broke both my wrists. I couldn't bowl pace so I decided to bowl spin.”
Wrist spin with broken wrists? Joking. “I'm not really sure how it happened, but it happened and I’m glad it did.”
As is Australia. In the Women’s Ashes, Wellington produced a ball that pitched outside leg stump, turned past Tammy Beaumont’s bat, and hit her off stump. That this came on a pitch that produced a 900-run draw over four days makes it all the more remarkable. And in a Test starved of moments of bowling brilliance, videos of that ball went viral, quick to earn comparisons with Shane Warne’s ‘ball of the century’. Hyperbole aside, it remains Wellington’s most special wicket, coming as it did under the rare halo of the Baggy Green, but the social media fallout has not touched her.
“A Test match, you know, is the pinnacle of this sport, cricket,” she says. “Obviously social media blew up after that but I didn't really want to get too involved.” Like most post-Warne era leg spinners, she too spent hours watching his bowling on YouTube, (“He has been my hero from the start”) and still does.
Captain Meg Lanning has used Wellington like a fast bowler so far, in short spells not more than three overs long. She has also not bowled her out in the two games, preferring a less-is-more policy. The one weakness her numbers reveal is her record against left-handers; she is yet to dismiss a single southpaw. So Lanning held her back as much as she could when Deepti Sharma was at the crease.
Despite making only limited appearances, Wellington has already made an impact, primarily because she gets her stock ball — the full, often wide, loopy leg break — to turn, and makes up for her lack of variations by mixing up her length, line and pace.
“I just think the key to spin bowling is to not get too predictable, just change it up all the time, just stay that one step ahead of batswomen,” she reveals. Imran Tahir has spoken about bowling 24 different balls in a T20 game. Wellington isn’t there yet, but she has faith in her stock ball, and is trying to learn some new tricks as well. And she may as well do it from the best.
During the Big Bash, Wellington picked the brains of fellow Adelaide Striker Rashid Khan. “The experience in itself was incredible,” she gushes. “He basically explained to me how to bowl the wrong ’un. Because at that stage I was bowling the wrong ’un, but it wouldn't spin. So he kind of helped me spin it a bit more. We talked a bit more about the mental side of cricket and the way to approach cricket.”
Animals and children tell the truth, they never lie, went one of Savage Garden’s more popular numbers. Well what about a self-taught leg spinner who is just out of her teens and likes squirrel-monkeys as company for photo-shoots (try not falling for this video)? Wellington is enjoying her first full season of international cricket, and is certain to make an impact in the T20I series ahead. That’s a truth you can see through.