Indo-Australian women’s international cricketer of the year

February 27th, 2008 - 11:15 am ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, Feb 27 (IANS) Indo-Australian Lisa Sthalekar has been named the women’s international cricketer for the second straight year at the Allan Border medal presentation in Melbourne. The 28-year-old Australian vice-captain joins captain Karen Rolton as the only woman to win the highest honour in Australian women’s cricket more than once. In 2007, she was nominated for the International Cricket Council’s women’s player of the year award.

The New South Wales all-rounder played one Test and 14 one-day internationals (out of 16) during the one-year voting period and averaged 59.82 with the bat.

In 14 one-day internationals, Sthalekar scored 558 runs at 62.00 including four half centuries and a top score of 87 not out. Her right-arm off-breaks netted 12 wickets with a best of 3-64.

Her most productive series came in Chennai in a quadrangular tournament comprising Australia, New Zealand, India and England. Sthalekar amassed 394 runs at an average of 98.5 in seven matches as Australia confirmed its world number one ranking with a six-wicket victory over New Zealand in the final.

A role model for girls today, Pune-born Lisa started playing cricket with her father in the backyard at the age of five and both enjoyed watching matches together at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). At the age of nine, she joined the West Pennant Hills Cricket Club in the Sydney suburb of Cherrybrook.

“I was the only girl and bowled my first ball in the opposite direction! When the boys saw I had some ability with the bat and ball, they became very protective like big brothers,” says Lisa, who would hide her ponytail under the cap. But after a year of playing, one day the cap fell and the boys yelled ‘that bloke is a girl!’”

At 12, she was playing with the boys in the morning and girls in the afternoon.

“My father, who has various degrees, did emphasise on studies, but also realised the importance of sport in the Australian culture. With supportive parents and good time management, it was possible to balance study and play,” says Lisa, who has a major in psychology and religious studies from Sydney University and would someday like to do a masters. But for now, cricket is full on.

An international Test player since 2001, she is also the high performance coach for all of the junior elite cricketers in the state of New South Wales. She doesn’t have a role model, but enjoys watching Sachin Tendulkar, Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh play.

“You know something interesting will happen when they are on the crease.”

Unlike tennis, where players on court make a fashion statement, women’s cricket is played in whites.

Lisa says: “We used to play in shorts/skirts, but it wasn’t practical. Knees would get grazed and there were infections. So in 1997, the pant was adopted as the cricket uniform. I feel with Twenty20 women’s matches, there are opportunities to exploit and try fashion in women’s gear.”

At present, women constitute 10.5 percent of total cricket participation in Australia with 50 percent of these between five and 12 years.

“There is a huge change coming in the women’s game and the masses are becoming more aware of women’s cricket. We are starting beach cricket, where girls can play and have a swim. Such programmes are making girls more comfortable with playing cricket. In the junior ranks, there are many girls from the sub-continent and Chinese background and other ethnic backgrounds,” Lisa says.

Despite the Australian women’s team being as successful as their invincible men’s team, women are not professional cricketers in Australia and they don’t get paid sponsorships either. Players work full time and many of them are also studying.

As Lisa says, “It is difficult and we aren’t rolling in wealth as is the perception. It is also why most of us are single; there is no time to socialise!”

Australian team members, umpires, national selectors and the national coach vote to select the women’s international cricketer of the year.

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