Leading Australian female cricketers to get financial aid

July 18th, 2008 - 9:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, July 18 (IANS) In an unexpected windfall for the leading women Australian cricketers, the top 20 players from the country will share in a $500,000 pool from Cricket Australia (CA), as per the new contract system for the national squad. Australia is the second country, after England, to offer contracts to its best female players. It is a vast improvement on the previous $75-a-day allowance, and should ease the pressure on the team who hosts India in October and tour New Zealand in February before the World Cup.

Teenager Ellyse Perry and vice-captain Lisa Sthalekar, who is among the world’s finest female batsmen, have welcomed the move.

“It is a wonderful first step, and it is going to enable girls to tour without having to worry about the bills. It is a significant increase in the amount of money we will be getting whilst we’re away,” Sthalekar was quoted as saying in The Age.

“I don’t think we’re at the stage yet where any of us can quit our full-time jobs and be professional athletes but we’re on the way towards that and there’s got to be some initial baby steps taken,” she said.

The payment pool will fund contracts on three tiers, which are expected to be worth up to $15,000 for the top players, plus tour fees, paid ambassadorial roles and educational support.

The latter will be particularly relevant to Perry, who at 17 captured the public imagination with a starring role in a televised Twenty20 game as a curtain-raiser to the Australian men’s blockbuster against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in February.

Since then, she has also represented her country in soccer in the Asia Cup in Vietnam.

Perry is everything Australian cricket wants - she’s talented, athletic, articulate and attractive - and along with Sthalekar she will be a central figure in marketing campaigns for the World Cup, to be staged in Sydney and its surrounds in March.

“For someone like me, with the education grants and that sort of thing, it does really help to set me up for the future as well, and help me think outside of cricket, because I obviously can’t play for the rest of my life, as much as I would love to, and to have that kind of support is great,” said Perry, who is also completing her final year at high school and aiming to continue studying.

Most of the players have full-time jobs - Sthalekar is a high-performance coach with Cricket New South Wales and team mate Alex Blackwell is a university lecturer in anatomy and physiology - and often take unpaid leave to play for Australia.

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