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I have loved kind of the challenges evolving as a player: Ellyse Perry

Last updated on 19 Jun 2020 | 11:49 AM
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I have loved kind of the challenges evolving as a player: Ellyse Perry

The world's premier allrounder in the women's game shares her thoughts on a number of issues in this detailed interview

One of the best women cricketers to have ever played the game, Ellyse Perry is a global icon for the sport. She was taking questions from the media in an online interaction organised by Cricket Australia earlier in the day. Here are the excerpts:

Status on your injury rehab

It’s going pretty well. I caught up with the surgeon couple of weeks ago. He is happy with the progress so far. From a day to day perspective everything we have been doing is going pretty well so far. Touchwood. From a time-frame point of view it would be lovely to be fit for the New Zealand series and be available for selection. At this stage, it’s tracking that way, but there’s a little bit to go. It’s a nice goal to have.

Fine with not going full-throttle and easing back?

From my point of view, coming back from injury there’s a clear distinction in my mind between being fit to play and fit to perform. As much as I wouldn’t have liked to have got injured, I think it’s a bit of opportunity and having this period of time to work on some things with the hamstring being such a big factor in getting that better again. Hopefully, there’s an opportunity in the time frame we’ve got to improve other things. I don’t really mind about if I don’t play in those games. For me, it’s more about when I do play again, I want to be in a position to contribute and perform and not just be on the field, if that makes sense. 

Relieved to know that there’ll be no changes to the Women’s domestic structure?

It’s a wonderful result. Especially given the uncertainty of international cricket at the moment. I guess we’ve got fair bit more control over what we can do domestically. It’s nice to maintain those competitions. Not just from the Australian players’ perspective, even more so from the domestic players’ point of view, we don’t play a lot of game as it is. So, to be able to maintain the number of games we’re going to play is crucial for cricket to keep developing in the women’ space in Australia and keep providing opportunities to everyone. It’s going to be a pretty long winter just training. So, it’s nice to have something to look forward to at the end of that. 

Any indication on your backroom staff for the team next summer? 

We've been incredibly fortunate in that sense to be able to maintain the structure and make-up of our staff within the Australian team albeit maybe with slightly varied roles and hours. In terms of the resourcing we've been able to keep our group together which I know from a player and staff perspective we are very grateful for given everything that's been going on.

Thoughts on Women’s team being on top in the survey of emotional connect they have with fans

It’s lovely and a great indication of just how successful and how important that T20 World Cup was at the start of the year. Broadly speaking, in terms of women’s sport, in a lot of ways it probably doesn’t surprise me that, a number of those top teams in that ranking were female teams or athletes because we are in a really wonderful, sweet spot at the moment where teams are certainly getting more recognition or exposed more to the public but maintained a sense of innocence or reliability.  It’s really nice to be able to have such a positive impact on the society. 

On how the staff might be doing things differently once cricket returns

I guess that’s probably an ongoing discussion given that things are still unfolding in a lot of ways and we are just kind of getting clarity. What the staff is going to look like – fortunately we haven’t lost any of our staff in the restructure. It actually presents a really good opportunity. We are really fortunate as an organisation to be able to run with some great luxuries around resourcing and high performance, and those things are absolutely great, but I think sometimes pairing it back and figure out what you absolutely need and what’s essential to preparing and playing well is not a bad thing. I'm sure we'll look at those different things and highlight what's best to spend time and resources on and in a lot of ways that could that be a positive and an opportunity to improve the future. 

On elevation of Nick Hockley as CEO

Over the last 4 or 5 years since he has been working on the T20 World Cup. He came and presented a pretty amazing vision four years ago about selling out MCG for the final. That was quite aspirational at that time for him to have delivered the way that he did in junction with everyone else working on that tournament was incredible. He is a wonderful representative of the game and it is nice to have him as our interim CEO at the moment. I’m sure he’ll do a wonderful job.

On if the momentum gathered by the women’s game will waver due to COVID-19

I don’t think so. Obviously it’s presenting new challenges for sporting organization in terms of the way that they are able to resource things, the competitions, the structures all those kind of things. At the end of the day, COVID has been a challenging time for everyone. Things like sport is something to look forward to. People really want to be back on our screens, and be able to follow and go down to matches, be engaged with it again. Women’s sport is increasingly playing such an important role in that, especially for families. You look at the games that we play in the demographic of our audience particularly at the ground a lot of these young families getting out and doing something. I don’t really see that changing. If anything as we go forward it could be enhanced.

Is CA ready for a female CEO? 

I think Cricket Australia has been ready for a female CEO for a long time. I know Chris (Christina Matthews) was in discussions for the last round of hiring for the role. I don’t think that’s been something new. I think it’s been there for a long period of time and they’ll just select the best candidate. We've got a number of women working in high executive roles in Cricket Australia, Belinda Clark and Steph Beltrame to name a couple. They are absolutely pivotal in the way that we operate. So, yeah, I think there's some really strong representation within cricket and leadership in the organisation already.

You are just coming back from an injury, at what stage are you in terms of training and preparing as there was a break because of COVID?

I’m not too far from 15 weeks into, I think probably what’s a 24-week injury, so from a very selfish point of view, the timing couldn’t have been better because I haven’t missed any cricket. It’s been nice being just at home focusing on rehabbing. So, things going really well and touchwood, I’ll be back for the start of summer when we start playing games here again.

There was a talk about shortening the length of the pitch and reducing the size of the ball. On which side of the debate are you?

I think I’m always open to innovation and change within sport, it’s one of the things that makes it so great. But, in saying there has to be legitimate reasons to do that and I’m not sure that there is. One of the great things about women’s cricket is that it’s very nuanced and has its own particular brand and style, but doesn’t need to be compared to men’s cricket. I think it can be appreciated for what it is. Whatever that is, it will constantly evolve and change. That’s why we love sport. I don’t think automatically we need to talk about making balls lighter or shortening the pitch. I think the game has far more to it than just the physicality of it.

Do the current players benefit from understanding on how the game has evolved and the past contributions from players and administrators?

More and more so we really appreciate that, certainly not to say that we could learn more and understand the route to the game in further. But, certainly the T20 World Cup and the final typified, I think our group just how much it has come before us. Lastly it was our playing group and era that was on the field that night and experiencing what was one of the most incredible night for the sport. Certainly there was a much greater sense that it wasn’t just us out there playing. It was all the generation of female cricketers that have come before us and most importantly to the people that have been involved in the sport from an organizational point of view, many a time as volunteers and not in paid roles just to keep the sport going and progressing. I think we’ve got a great appreciation for that, I know being in your genuine program, coming through the ranks, you’re very keen to impress on us through the game. One of the course facts about the game that I’ll always remember is that, females actually invented over-arm bowling. I mean there is such an important place in terms of history and contribution taking place before us, that’s something we will always try and be aware of.

Going into your second season with Victoria, what’s it been like not worrying about the stay and purely focus on cricket this off season?

It’s been nice, I spend a lot of time in Melbourne, probably more than I spend in Sydney over the last decade. It definitely feels like home now, obviously slightly different circumstances this time around and no-one’s really touched a cricket ball or bat yet, but just been in the Junction Oval facility most days of the week and having such great access to the staff we have got there, the training facility has been absolutely awesome and I don’t feel so much like the new kid on the block for the first time. I certainly did last year in sort of finding my feet, whereas this year it has been nice just to slot back into the group.

Obviously looking at the schedule, there are quite a few games against New Zealand, I think six or seven of them, T20Is and ODIs. Are you looking forward to renewing the battle against them?

It has been one of our great rivalries in cricket really, when I first started playing for Australia a while ago, the main competition was when we played against New Zealand every year and not so much against other nations. That’s obviously evolved a lot last couple of years. But, in some way it is nice to get back to our route and play against them that works out really well, given the current restrictions to travel. They are a wonderful team, we know a lot of them very well, lot of them play in the Big Bash over here and yes that’s a way to start cricket I think and it’s a great opportunity.

In these tough times most of us are working from home, how physical it is for you sports people, is there a concept like playing from home or is it just a myth?

I suppose a lot of people have invested in home gym, part-time I got on to that, most of the equipment in Australia well and truly snapped up. But actually one of the things I always loved doing pre-COVID and also during COVID is just going out to the local nets, as an opportunity to go outside and breathe in fresh air. Also I guess things I haven’t done since I was a kid, it’s been really nice to do that. It’s not the flashy turf wickets that are rolled by groundsmen everyday and well looked after. It’s kind of nice to go down there and have a hit on the synthetic, chase the ball when they go out of the net. I guess that’s my version of working from home.

In these times technology has helped us to sort of stay at home and still be in touch through Zoom and other apps. Do you see the technology going forward also shaping the future of women’s cricket?

Probably from a playing point of view, I don’t think it’s going to impact us too much. But, certainly from an organization point of view I’m sure this is like any business around the world. I think it’s going to change a lot of the way we do things, just in terms of the way we communicate and hold meetings, you know I think there will be a lot less travel, which to me in a way is a good thing as well. 

You mentioned your old rivalry against New Zealand before. Next month will be 13 years since you played your first international game against New Zealand in Darwin of all places. What is your memory of that and what that was like?

I have the most fond memories of that match or that series. Darwin in July was a bit different, I guess roughly this time of the year a long long time ago. I don't think it has changed one bit in terms of our rivalry with New Zealand. It's always incredibly tough. We've never really played an easy series. It always ends up going to the last game of the series. Fortunately, I have been on the winning end of a lot of those but they never seem easy. It always feels like you have escaped from jail right at the end a lot of the times. There are still players in that New Zealand team that are playing now, someone like Suzie Bates and Katey Martin so it will be nice to play them again soon. 

Is there a standout memory of that whole experience?

I think personally speaking just being amongst a group of players like it was at that point of time and never expecting to be there was pretty phenomenal. I guess I look back on it now and things have changed so so much in terms of professionalism of the sport and the opportunities we all get. Karen Rolton was the captain at the time. I think she was 16 years older than me and had a part-time job with Australia Post that she'd had her whole playing career. To kind of think about that now is akin to saying that Meg Lanning has a part-time job doing something else. I think it is incredible how much it has changed over that period of time. But one thing that has remained is the competition that we have between New Zealand and it still feels the same as that first series that I played against them.

You've completed almost a decade of international cricket. How much do you enjoy the role of being an icon not just in Australia but beyond the borders?

Not sure I'd call myself an icon. I absolutely love the opportunity as do all of us to play a sport that we love and gives us a tremendous amount of joy. But I guess, we now see it having a bigger impact than that. That became really apparent, I guess this year, more than ever with the T20 World Cup with the amount of young girls and boys who just really enjoy watching the team and want to be a part of things. To know that you kind of have a positive effect like that on a young generation as well as older fans is really special. So, from our perspective, it is really nice to have that opportunity, something I feel very fortunate to be in a position to do. 

Over the years have you seen yourself liking batting more than bowling or the other way?

I have loved kind of the challenges evolving as a player.  When I started out, I was definitely just a bowler in the squad, but I guess growing up, through junior cricket, I always batted as well. I've loved the challenges evolving and getting to the point where I can contribute to the side in both respects. But I think when you get to that position, it doesn't stop there. You need to keep getting better at that because the game moves so quickly. At various points over the last couple of years, I have had to focus more on batting or bowling just to try and keep up. I kind of envisage that happening for the next little bit. To answer your question, probably both.

The ICC is going to make a call on the World Cup soon. Do you have any gut feeling of what might happen, any preference? Has it been hard mentally?

With the whole situation, it is really hard to have a gut feel where things might go. The whole landscape changes so quickly at the moment. In some ways, in the scheme of things, a World Cup seems a little bit irrelevant given everything else that is going on. At the same time, I guess everyone is going to prepare like it is going to happen and if it doesn't, it doesn't. It is nice to know that more than likely we will be playing this series against New Zealand in September. That's kind of our immediate focus and something that is nice for all of us to have one eye on to make sure that we have something to look forward to at the end of pre-season. From there depends on what happens. I guess it is just one of those things. Depending on what happens with the men's T20 World Cup too, that could have an impact on the women's 50-over World Cup next year. 

Just back on Christina Matthews, if she was given the top job (of CA CEO), how do you think she would go and what do think that would say to young girls to have a woman right at the top?

Chris has been extremely successful over at the WACA. I also knew Chris when she worked at New South Wales prior to that as the head of marketing. She has got a vast amount of experience and knowledge in cricket. I know she is very well-respected around the country. We are very fortunate in the Australian society to have a lot of incredibly aspirational and high-leading women in various leadership roles across various organisations and businesses. I think if she is given the role, she will do a great job. A lot of people will be incredibly proud of her.

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