Any aspiring women cricketer, for once, will look at how Australia great Lisa Sthalekar took her stance and shaped up her career. For Sthalekar is one of the most accomplished female cricketers with a ‘strike-rate some male players would fail to match’, particularly in the shortest format of the game.
Lisa had an inspiring journey. She was originally named Laila at birth, in Pune, and was later adopted by Haren and Sue Sthalekar, who raised her in Cherrybrook, suburb of Sydney. She was introduced to cricket by father in their backyard where she played with boys.
In 1997-98 she made her debut for New South Wales as a bowler and lower-order batter. Before her performances brought her to the fore and helped her represent the youth Australian teams. It took her few years before she made her debut for the national team in 2001 against England and the rest as they say is history!
Her decorated career saw her being a part of four World Cup winning squad and two-time Ashes winning national team. Among the many hats she donned in her cricket career, was also the captaincy role. Now a leading commentator, Lisa Sthalekar, spoke her mind in an exclusive interview with CricketAddictor.
Samrat Chakraborty (SC): Indian women cricketers do not have an athletic build like Australian or English cricketers. How do you think that effects their game on the field?
Lisa Sthalekar (LS): I don’t necessarily agree with that, we are starting to see plenty of strong, athletic females within the Indian side. Access to regular strength and conditioning program and the fact that the men’s team is driven by fitness in all aspect by their Captain, Virat Kohli has had a huge impact on Indian cricket.
They have been a little slower than other female players around the world, but I have no doubt that they will catch up.
SC: Women cricket has grown a lot in the past few years. They are getting crowd support. But do you think equal pay is still a concern and should be addressed in every cricketing playing nation?
LS: The model in Australia is one of equity, given the fact that female players do play less cricket than there male counterparts. However the way forward for the game is to actually support the domestic cricketers. Having a a strong powerful domestic competition where players are well looked after will keep older players in game for longer and allow them to dedicate more time to game which will increase the skill, strength and match play.
SC: Looking at your decorated career, what do you make out of it? Are you satisfied with what you have achieved or still think could have done more?
LS: I was very fortunate enough to have played in some amazing sides, with dominant players that will go down as legends of the game. Probably the one area I wish I had produced a little more, was my batting. Having come into the Australian side and NSW side as an off-spinner who batted a bit, I had to work hard for years to get up the batting order.
I just wish that I had converted more of my half centuries into bigger scores, but other than that I feel that I gave everything I had for the game.
SC: In the Women’s T20 World Cup, the judgement for England team due to the washed out game. Do you think it was fair or ICC should re-jig the rule?
LS: The rules have been in place every since the T20 World Cups have taken place. It also applies for the Men’s competition as well.
Until something like this happens, you do feel for England, missing out and unable to see if they were good enough to beat India to make the final.
I am sure that the ICC will look at future events, however where do you stop in creating a reserve day for matches? Should it count for all ICC events?, Qualifying events? That is more of a cost for all competitions. However I am sure that ICC will look at this issue and come up with a suitable situation that will be fair for all.
SC: Growing up, when was the moment you thought, you want make a career with Cricket?
LS: It was probably at the age of 14. I was actually playing tennis at a competitive level and it was that sport that I wanted to excel at. However I realised that I enjoyed a team sport and cricket was it, so started to put more and more energy into it.
SC: As a youngster is there a male cricketer you took inspiration from? Tell us about it
LS: When I was younger I actually had tennis posters on my wall. I never had a player that I looked up to and inspired to play like them. Though there were players that I enjoyed watching, they were Shane Warne, Michael Slater, Mark Waugh and of course Sachin Tendulkar. Players who always made something happen!!
SC: Who do you think is the greatest women cricketer of all-time?
LS: Hard to compare players over different generations and unfortunately due to limited vision of women’s cricket, I haven’t been able to see footage of Betty Wilson, Lyn Fullston and the list would go on and on.
SC: You had a great rivalry with Mithali Raj once. How was it like? How do describe her as a player?
LS: Sure did have a great rivalry with Mithali. I always enjoyed bowling to best players in the world as there was a great battle to sometimes keep them to a dot and sometimes get them out. As soon as she would come out in the middle, I wanted to be involved in her dismissal.
As a player Mithali is a stylish batter. Nothing seemed to faze her, she wouldn’t give her emotions away which I respected as it was something that I would try and do as well. Mithali has also shown that she was been able to adapt her game to changing face of women’s cricket and no doubt the upcoming World Cup is her chance to win an ICC event!
SC: Meg Lanning, Alyssa Healthy, Beth Mooney – the Austarlia women’s side looks like a formidable unit. Is there anything you reckon they should still work on? Any advice?
LS: The Australian side is humming at the moment. They spoke about how they wanted to play the game after the defeat of the 2017 semi final loss to the hands of the Indian side. Since then they have been extremely hard to beat.
An area in general for the women’s game to improve is in the field and no doubt that is an area that all players want to improve on.
LS: What do you think about keeping women’s coach specifically for women’s teams? And will you be open to taking up coaching roles in future?
I have always been a big believer that the best coach needs to be married up to the right playing group. If it happens to be a male coach, coaching female players or a female coach, coaching male players then so be it.
Throughout my career, whilst I was representing my country I was coaching and since retirement have coached a men’s club, be involved with the Australian women’s side and also the Sydney Sixers. I love coaching and working with individual athletes.
That is why it is great that I now get a chance to work with any athlete around the world on SloCoach. A platform where players can upload videos and I get a chance to have a look at it, provide feedback and given them direction on how to change etc.
SC: Away from the field, how has the journey been for you as a commentator? Is there any favourite commentator you have shared the commentary box with?
LS: I have been very fortunate to have been welcomed into the commentary box, despite my lack of experience. They have all provided me insights into how it works, tricks of trade and more importantly friendship as we all travel around the world away from our family. Commentators and the crew have become my second family and this pandemic has highlighted just how much I love my job and can’t wait to get back to a ground to call the game that I love.