The Ten Things I have loved so far about my adventure commentating in the IPL8. #PepsiIPL

1) Seeing AB de Villiers innings of 133*! de Villiers is truly the best batsman going around at the moment.  His ability to manipulate the ball to all parts of the ground when and how he wants to is simply magical.  Equally impressive is his mental application when out in the middle. He stays calm under pressure and out thinks the bowler, more often than not.

2) Getting the opportunity in my down time to play a round of golf throughout the Fort Golkand in Hyderabad. No doubt this makes my list also because when I paired up with Damien Fleming and Anthony Kearney on different occasions we have won both times when taking on the “Rest of the World” team!

3) Getting a chance to watch a game of cricket every night and exciting and thrilling games at that!!!

4) Meeting up with all the Aussies that are involved in the IPL. Whether that be camera operators, producers, commentators, event managers, strength & conditioners, physiotherapists, assistant coaches, bowling coaches, fielding coaches…oh and that’s right, the players!!!

5) Learning about the whole off field behind the scenes business of bringing you, the viewers, the pictures, sounds, graphics, stories into your living room.

6) Exploring different parts of India that I haven’t had the opportunity to visit before, namely Kolkata and Hyderabad.

7) Seeing the destruction and athleticism shown by the West Indian players throughout the tournament. 

8) Witnessing the rising youth of Indian cricket, in players such as Shreyas Iyer, Sarfraz Khan and Deepak Hooda to name a few.  It has been genuinely exciting to witness their first experiences at this elite level and seeing them perform extremely well. India is in good hands for the future.

9) The look on the my co-commentators face when I offered to host drinks after a game and provided tapas that included dips, falafel, olives, pita bread and more…instead of the usual wine/beer/peanuts that the boys had provided when they hosted drinks. 

10) Interacting with the people of India. I love how nothing is ever too hard for them and someone is always willing to help and assist. More importantly, they do it with a smile on their face every day of the week no matter what the time of day is and that is really lovely when you are so far away from home from family, friends and furkids for so long.

My pick on the potential winner of the #PepsiIPL @IPL Who do you think will lift the trophy??

Having now had the opportunity to watch over 40 matches of IPL8, the thing I have enjoyed most is watching players from different cultures, conditions, upbringing and privilege, play against each other and with each other. 


So in bringing such a diverse range of players together, what is the recipe to success as a team, with very little chance to spend any time together before the tournament kicks off? Well it all begins at the auction stage, where team owners, coaching staff and mentors work together to strategically assemble a team they think can win them the IPL. 


Whilst teams busily bid for the stable of available International stars, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the teams selecting right domestic Indian players for their IPL squad. This is the extremely crucial to a team’s success, as staff try to complement their International players with the skills of the quality Indian domestic players. 


In terms of selecting the domestic Indian players, some teams have opted for up and coming young guns who are fearless (Sarfraza Khan and Deepak Hooda), whilst others have chosen experienced cricketers that have been around the traps for over a decade, such as Ashish Nehra and Pravin Tambe. 


So which approach is better?? It is tough to say as it really depends on the individual, plus I have always believed that you need the mixture of youth and experience to have success. Though I am going to put myself out there on a limb and say the fearless youngster may turn the game in your favour when you least expect it.


Looking at each of the IPL teams, it is no surprise that CSK have been the most consistent performer over the history of the IPL due to their batting strength and the number of players who have international experience. And why wouldn’t they be…apart from the genuine International stars on their books, such as McCullum, Faf du Plessis, the two Dwyanes’ – Bravo and Smith, their Indian players have all experienced International success at some stage, most notably being their favourite son, MS Dhoni.


However, with Brendan McCullum leaving CSK to play Test cricket in England, the formidable opening partnership between him and Dwayne Smith will be broken and they may be exposed because of this. Having strong openers that dominate in the first six overs are the teams that are posting competitive scores, or showing an ability to chase down the scores with control and dominance.


Whilst CSK is strong, for me, if I was a betting person (which I am not), my money would be on Royal Challengers Bangalore to win IPL8. Ever since Mitch Starc has landed in India, they look like a different side because they have their balance right. Not only do they have the fire power with the bat, this now it is matched with the ball. Teams that have bought strength in one skill isn’t enough to win you games here in the IPL8.


RCB has the flare and the key personnel that can win them a match from any situation, and importantly they appear to be a side that enjoys each others company on and off the field. Off the field they have fun together, whether it be smearing cake over each other because it is someone’s birthday or dancing the night away. On the field, they play with passion and fire and are fiercely competitive.


So a well balanced team, with quality depth in the batting and bowling departments, who gets along well is a winning combination for me in IPL8.


My smokey to win the tournament is Kolkata Knight Riders. Their style of play is extremely different to other teams – they grind and restrict teams with their meticulous use of spin at Eden Gardens. Whilst they do have the hitting power with Andre Russell and Yusuf Pathan, their batsmen are also elegant to watch using timing and their wrists to find the boundary with ease.

Half way through the #PepsiIPL @IPL

Being part of IPL8 has been one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences of my life. I feel blessed and lucky.

The colour, noise, action and passion on display every night continues to astound me. And when I reflect on this I feel that the IPL is quintessential India, or should I say, modern India.

For me, it has been an opportunity of a life time. Not only do I get to be in India during this carnival atmosphere, but more importantly, I have been given the chance to learn off the best in the business when it comes to commentating on cricket.

Twenty two days have already been and gone and whilst Crew C has only commentated on six games at this point, with one wash out, it has enabled me to spend quality time interacting with the talented Crew C and watch A LOT of cricket. 

Prior to coming over, I was conscious that I had watched the IPL sporadically over the previous 7 years and hadn’t had the opportunity to observe the majority of the Indian domestic players make their way through their cricketing careers. So my immediate focus was how am I going to get up to speed to make the fans happy and Crew C happy to have me part of their team? 

For my commentary work I actually carry around with me three different books.

A red one that captures all the games that I have covered in my short career as a commentator, the results and the key performers and two smaller books, where one is dedicated for each match that I watch in the IPL, my observations and key moments in the game. 

The other is what I call my “cheat sheet” which contains all the teams and their stats for this IPL and any facts that might be points of interests. This allows me to have a quick glance over the players and their recent performances. 

As you would expect, my 3 books assist in my preparation, but nothing beats watching the games live and forming my own opinions on the players. So whilst originally I would have preferred to be busy commentating at the start of the tournament, being able to watch so many games up front has allowed me to get to know the players so I can provide the fans with insights into the game and the likely tactics of the players. 

Commentating is very similar to playing, you have to make sure you are prepared and you have to find a formula that works for yourself.  Calling in the IPL is very different to the radio and TV commentary I have done in Australia and only now am I am starting to feel confident I have found formula for me that can ensure that at the end of each game Crew C and the fans are happy with my contribution. 

As a former athlete who performed at the highest level I have certainly put a huge amount of pressure on myself to grab this opportunity with both hands and do a great job. And if I am honest with myself, with my first few IPL8 matches I was a little overwhelmed with it all…and why wouldn’t I be! I am in India commentating on the biggest T20 competition in the world and the fans are the loudest in the world!!! 

However, my fellow Crew C commentators, producer and director have been patient and encouraging, and as my journey has progressed, they have been wonderful supports. From everything from making me feel included, sharing a few tricks of the trade as to how to sound more polished on air (whether it’s throwing to an ad break or making sure I don’t say “as you can see” during the call) and giving me a timely pat on the back as encouragement. Their support and encouragement has been vital to making me feel that I have been going well and improving as my IPL8 journey evolves. 

As they have all mentioned any commentator starting out will have some much to learn and improve on – like a international athlete starting out on their international career. It takes time to master the art of commentating with each commentator exploring what style best suits them and reflects them, and with most things in life, the only way to learn is by doing more and more matches. Over the past few weeks I have needed to keep reminding myself to just be ME. I can’t try to sound like another commentator because I respect them, it just won’t work. 

With another seven matches to go, I am still super excited about what lies ahead and all the intricacies and nuances that I am going to pick up about commentating…bring it on!!  I hope I can repay the faith a lot of people have shown in me to give me this opportunity.


A direct swap – from sunscreen and playing gear to make-up and dress shirts #PepsiIPL

As I began the task of packing for my wonderful 5 week Indian adventure, it dawned on me that things would be a little different to what I am accustomed to.

The positives were that I didn’t have to lug a training kit bag along with my clothes bag and hand luggage. Let me tell you, one less bag to travel with makes it a lot easier getting in and out of the airports and hotels. However, I did notice that I needed to pack a lot more clothes thank usual.

Most players on tour spend a lot of time in their training clothes whilst resting in the hotel. I would go one step further and wear my pyjama bottoms most of the time whilst chilling out in my room or my teammates room. 

I know that this trip will be one of the most unique and exciting in my life. So I knew there would be no opportunity to lounge around in my pyjamas. That mean both more clothes but more shoes.

I can’t recall ever packing so many pairs of shoes for a trip, ever! No longer are runners and spikes my “work” attire. There are now the ballet flats, high heels, casual shoes (that all need to be colour coordinated to my outfits) plus my havana thongs and of course my runner for the fitness I will try to motivate myself to do.     

Additionally, as an athlete you never have to worry about make-up, except the suncream kind, ensuring that the sun doesn’t kiss your skin too much. Even if you did attend functions, Cricket Australia organised hair and make-up artists to assist us in scrubbing up well for the event. 

There will be no assistance for me this time. I am in my own in the make-up stakes. Even when I was purchasing my make-up I wasn’t 100% confident in what I was choosing. Thankfully the staff at MAC were extremely helpful.

Fingers crossed my feminine side comes to the surface and I look half decent tonight. As I am not sure Danny Morrison or Aakash Chopra can help me out :)

A lot of time, research and preparation by the whole team is necessary to be ready to do a great job in commentary and to make sure the broadcast is polished and natural. So earlier in the day, the team based in Kolkata had a brief meeting. Simon, our Director and Neil, our Producer went through all the fine details of how to make the telecast run like clock work. It was just like a tactical meeting before the game.

Instead of accessing the oppositions strengths, weaknesses and our different plans that we wanted to execute, we covered where and when we needed to be. Plus my fellow commentators, Danny Morisson, Mpumelelo (Pommie) Mbangwa and Aakash Chopra generously imparted some of their experiences and techniques with me. I always get inspired by working in a great team.

It was during this meeting that my game day nerves started to creep in. My father has always stated that butterflies are important before any big event, as it shows that you are passionate about what you are doing and you are wanting to do well.

So I will try to harness those nerves as I begin this journey. I am certain of that. Thankfully I have an excellent team to rely on. I am sure that  

With Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore ready to square off, I feel like a ripper game awaits all of us. So hopefully I will be captivated so much by the game my nerves will quickly subside, as I become swept up by all of the theatre and excitement that is the IPL. 

Let my wonderful 5 weeks Indian journey begin!

Are female cricketers equipped to play Test #cricket?

As the dust settles from the most recent women’s Test match that saw the underdogs, India beat current Ashes holders England, doubts about the sustainability of Test matches in the future where whispered amongst all female cricket supporters.

Novices solely perusing the scorecards would question if women have the ability to play an attractive brand of Test cricket. Those that love and understand women’s cricket know that the mentioned match had the unique pressure that is only seen when representing your country in a Test match.

Although a result occurred in the Test, both teams struggled with the conditions during the first few days. Limping to well below par scores of 92 and 114 respectively in their first innings total.

Here are some considerations to be made regarding this Test before judgment is made on the longevity of women’s Tests.

  • ECB asked the groundsmen to make the pitch more lively to allow a more even contest between bat vs ball, as last years Test on the same pitch was drawn out over four long fruitless days.
  • The preparation of the Test pitch was constrained due to a fair amount of rain that saw it covered for long periods of time. Therefore there was no hesitation by Indian captain, Mithali Raj to send England in on a juicy wicket.
  • Both teams have had limited opportunities to play Test cricket. India played their last Test eight years ago. It was no surprise then that eight players made their debut. England on the other hand had a higher number of experienced players, however their last Test was 12 months ago.

Based on the lack of match opportunities in this longer format, players are not experienced enough to make it an attractive form of the game for new spectators of women’s cricket. Female cricketers play predominately one-day matches (50 overs) and Twenty/20, with the latter the most dominant form of the game.

Having been involved in the game for over a decade I have certainly seen the improvement and the change in focus in the women’s game. The girls concentrate on hitting and bowling the ball with power, as strength is now a huge component of a player’s preparation.

Whilst training and coaching at the Cricket NSW Indoor centre, I have seen the difference in how the male players train compared to the females. The majority of the time spent in the nets with the girls is about generating pace when hitting the ball, instead of tightening up their forward defense and building an innings which are necessary skills required to be successful in the test arena.

Australian female players only play 50 over and T20 matches in the domestic competitions. The Women’s National Cricket League and the Women’s T20 using white balls. Playing with a red ball in a Test match or club cricket is a rarity.

Representative players in the Australian domestic competitions have limited opportunities to play club cricket due their State and or National commitments and again reinforcing limited opportunities to play with a red cricket ball.

It is a known fact that the white ball doesn’t swing in the same way as the red ball. Therefore batters don’t necessarily need to focus on their defense and leaving the ball. Instead the focus is on how they can manipulate a good length delivery for runs.

We have seen in the media England’s captain, Charlotte Edwards mentioned that the players want to play more Tests; it is the ultimate challenge for a player to see if you can physically and mentally perform well over four consecutive days.

If the players want to play more Tests how can the matches be more competitive, whilst accurately showcasing the players skill level?

Apart from providing more opportunities for the players to adapt to the format and playing with a red ball, I would argue there is a much simpler and easy way that may make a difference.

In preparing the Test pitch, could it be prepared as a day three wicket for the start of the Test?

The very fact that the girls are lighter means that they hardly affect the pitch’s condition throughout the duration of the Test.

As a spin bowler I loved playing Test matches, I was able to have fielders around the bat and time to tactically out think and set up the batter. Yet in all of my eight Tests I never came across a wicket that broke up on the last day or had large foot marks to target, which didn’t allow the spinners to come into their own.

My theory behind preparing the pitches differently is that the new ball will swing and swing for a lot longer than what the girls are use to, not to mention that the first session of any Test match is a nervous period for everyone. Therefore we will still see an even contest between bat and ball.

By day two and three, you will see the wicket flatten out allowing batters to find the conditions easier and then hopefully by day four the spinners will come into play, testing the batters techniques in a way that is rarely seen in women’s cricket.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe the last two Test matches that have been played have provided a lot of excitement as both teams tried to gain back the ascendancy through patience and resilience.

But is there another way to skin a cat?

Should the actual question be do female Test pitches need to be prepared differently?

Shooting Stars start their Sri Lankan tour with a comprehensive win. Brief match report

The Shooting Stars have begun their Sri Lankan tour in style by beating the Sri Lankan Development Squad by 9 wickets with plenty of overs to spare. 

After two days of training in the humid Colombo conditions the girls were ready to try their skills against an unknown opposition.

There are 14 players that have travelled over here, each with their own unique purpose for the tour. Four players are over here to get used to sub-continent conditions before the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh and the others have been identified for the future and it is all about giving them opportunities to perform at the next level.

Selection:

With 14 players touring and it being all about opportunities all players will play all the matches.

Toss:

Alyssa Healy was named Captain for the first match and started well by winning the toss and electing to bowl at the SSC Ground in Colombo.

Score:

Sri Lanka Development XI 10-147 defeated by Shooting Stars 1-149 off 23.3 overs

Key Moments:

  • The Sri Lankan’s came out of the blocks quickly as the Australian openers struggled to find the right length and line. It wasn’t until Rene Farrell struck in her next two overs that Sri Lanka was reduced to 3-52 off 8 overs, and the ascendancy swung the Shootings Stars way. Rene was even on a hat-trick at one stage. She couldn’t convert the hat-trick but went on to return the figures of 5-29 off 7.3 overs.
  • Kristen Beams (0-5 off 7 overs) and Sarah Aley (2-27 off 7 overs) then put the squeeze on to really bring the momentum back to the Shooting Stars.
  • All the bowlers played their role as the Shooting Stars continually picked up wickets and eventually bowled Sri Lanka out in the 45th over.
  • Beth Mooney (40 off 46) and Nicole Bolton (57 off 44) got the Shooting Stars off to the perfect start as they hit the loose ball and rotated the strike. Eventually they were both retired when the score was on 100 in the 15th over.
  • It didn’t take the Shooting Stars much longer to pass their score and with the early finish it allowed both teams to continue to play again providing more opportunities.
  • In the second part of the match, we saw Grace Harris contact with plenty of balls as she hit four x fours and four x sixes to score an impressive 53 runs off 32 deliveries.

Figures:

  • Rene Farrell 5-29 off 7 overs                           • Nicole Bolton 57* (44)
  • Kara Sutherland 0-24 off 4 overs                     • Beth Mooney 40* (46)
  • Sarah Aley 2-27 off 7 overs                             • Alyssa Healy 42 (37)
  • Kristen Beams 0-5 off 7 overs                         • Bridget Patterson 45* (47)
  • Jemma Barsby 1-18 off 7 overs                      • Grace Harris 53 (32)
  • Angela Reakes 0-20 off 7 overs                      • Delissa Kimmince 23* (16)
  • Molly Strano 1-15 off 5 overs

What is Next:

Today is a rest day and tomorrow the Shooting Stars take on the main Sri Lankan team in two T20s that will be played at the ground where the Southern Stars won the T20 World Cup…happy memories.

Until next time!

The England team have retained the #WomensAshes, after a high scoring affair in the first T20 match. Summary of the match

In the first of three double-header matches with the men, this women’s T20 match had a lot more at stake than the men’s match….The Ashes were up for grabs, with the Southern Stars fighting their way back into the contest after losing the Test Match and six vital points at the same time.

Selection:

With the change in format, we again saw a number of changes by both sides.

For Australia there were two changes:

  • Nicole Bolton out for Elyse Villani – Villani for a long time has been seen as a T20 specialist,  and despite not having a great Test and first ODI match, was recalled to the team.
  • Holly Ferling out for Sarah Coyte – With Australia wanting to take the pace out of their attack and bolster their batting order it was an easy selection to bring Coyte in who has been out due to injury since the Test match.

England made three changes:

  • Anya Shrubsole out for Natasha Farrant – Shrubsole was ruled out of the match in the morning
  • Heather Knight out for Dani Wyatt – According to reports, Knight was also ruled out of today’s match because of an injury.
  • Kate Cross out for Georgia Elwiss – Elwiss has been in and out of the English team, but provides a little more experience and the variation required in T20 cricket. 

Toss:

With Jodie Fields still injured Meg Lanning Captained her first T20 match and was successful with the toss of the coin and elected to bat.

Score:

England 1/151 defeated Australia 3/150 by 9 wickets with 13 balls to spare

Points Tally:

England 10 points

Australia 4 points

With only 4 points left up for grabs in the series, England have retained the Ashes.

Key Moments:

  • With a change in the batting order we saw Blackwell open. This pushed Lanning down the order to her preferred position of number 3. It seemed to suit her extremely well as she scored her highest individual score in T20 cricket with an unbeaten 78 runs off 56 balls.
  • At the back end of the Australian innings, the partnership between Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning lifted the scoring rate and scored 46 runs off four overs, allowing the Southern Stars to post a competitive total of 150, just 3 runs shy of the highest score ever by Australia.
  • During the period of the 6th – 12th (27 deliveries) the Australians didn’t score a boundary, this I believe meant that the Australians were 10-15 runs short in the end.
  • From the first ball that Charlotte Edwards faced, by cutting a wide delivery to the boundary there was a steely determination written on her face stating that she was going to do everything in her power to bring home the Ashes. By the fall of the first wicket Edwards was 30 having hit six 4’s, indicating her intent.
  • Charlotte Edwards produced one of her best innings that I have ever seen her play with an unbeaten 92 runs off 59 balls.
  • With Sarah Taylor and Charlotte in the middle and looking extremely comfortable Australia had to take the half chances. Unfortunately for the Southern Stars they missed a run out and a tough leg-side stumping.
  • The Australian bowling attack didn’t find their groove at all within the 20 overs as they bowled two sides of the wicket and with two quality batters at the crease, England made light work the total. 
  • I would be intrigued to know why Ellyse Perry and Erin Osborne, two of Australia’s frontline bowlers, weren’t used within the first 10 overs and in my opinion used too late against two set batters.

Where to now:

  • The Ashes are now tied up with England, but for the Australians in the words of Alex Blackwell “we want to win a series within a series.” 
  • There is still much at stake with the T20 World Cup being held in Bangladesh late March, where Australia will try and retain the trophy for the third consecutive time.
  • Finally both teams will now start to try and figure out what their best bowling and batting line-ups are, therefore some key players may be rested whilst others are given a go.

Ones to watch:

  • With the Series wrapped up all eyes turn towards the coaches and selectors to see what selection strategies they adopt.