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.

 

 

 

The @SouthernStars have kept the #WomensAshes series alive with a nail biting finish. Match highlights

On a beautiful summers day in Hobart, the Southerns Stars celebrated Australia Day the only way they knew how to, with a close but extremely important win.

Today was the last ODI match of the Series with the Australians requiring to win all remaining fixtures to regain the convented Ashes trophy.

Having watched and played a lot of cricket, I would have to say that this win was exceptional and of the highest standards. An enthralling ODI match that yielded over 500 runs in a days play, that went down to the last over and had all the drama and theatre that is synonymous with Ashes cricket.

Selection:

After the Southern Stars clinched their first Ashes victory this summer, Meg Lanning and her team remained the same for the third ODI.

England on the other-hand made one change. It was no surprise to see Danni Wyatt dropped, but the surprising factor was that a bowler didn’t come in to replace her, instead it was another batter Amy Jones.

Toss:

England won their first toss in this ODI Series and had no hesitation to bat on a flat pitch with a lightening outfield.

Score:

Australia 6-269 defeated England 4-268 by 4 wickets with 3 balls to spare

Points Tally:
England 8 points
Australia 4 points
4 points still up for grabs in the remaining three T20s.

Key Moments:

* Sarah Taylor woken in the last ODI match in Melbourne, continued where she left off by time the ball extremely well. It was dangerous times for the Australians until Jessica Cameron pulled off her trade mark “sensational catch” to dismiss Taylor for 64 runs off 57 balls.

* I felt that England were in a position to really accelerate and post a formidable total of 280 plus. But the fact that the Australian bowlers were able to keep Lydia Greenway (25 off 48) and Arran Brindle (*26 off 25) quiet, halted their momentum.

* Jenny Gunn has an ability to change the game and today was no different as she combined with Sarah Taylor to affect the crucial leg-side stumping of a brutal Meg Lanning (40 off 30). Australia were still in a good position but when Gunn also ran out Jessica Cameron at the non-strikers end off a deflection, I felt that the tide had turned and England were in the box seat.

* Australia fought back with Alex Blackwell registering her third 50 from just as many ODIs, combining nicely with Ellyse Perry to put on an 86 run partnership to give Australia hope.

* Dani Hazell was the standout bowler for both sides bowling her ten overs and picked up the key wicket of Nicole Bolton (31) returning the figures of 1-25.

* Ellyse Perry timed her innings to perfection and didn’t seem flustered in her match winning innings to remain unbeaten on 90 runs off 95 deliveries. She managed to shift up a gear when required and showed the class to be now considered in my opinion the best all-rounder in the world.

* Erin Osborne, might have just played her best innings for Australia. Coming in with the run rate getting close to 9 runs per over, England tried to squeeze her, but she was up for the challenge finding the boundary with ease. Erin’s 40 runs off 25 balls allowed Perry not to panic as they were able to get it down to a run a ball for the last over and eventually win with 3 balls left.

Where to Now:

* England would be gutted with that lost and I am sure all players and coaching staff will be wondering where they went wrong and how they let it slip from their grasp. Psychologically it is a huge blow for them and on the flip side the Australian have got some wind in their sails and now have the belief.

* I believe that England got their selections wrong by opting for another batter (who didn’t actually bat) instead of a bowler. Charlotte Edwards seemed to have run out of bowlers by the end of the innings which cost her team dearly.

* The Women’s Ashes Series now heads to three T20s that will act as the curtain raiser for the men. The Australians have had their success against England such as the T20 World Cup in 2012, so hopefully they can open up a few scares.

* I would expect a few changes from both sides as they try to find the right balance of players in the shortest format of the game. Jodie Fields may return to Captain and keep, but a question to all of you, do you change a winning formula?

Ones to watch:

Meg Lanning has been extremely quiet throughout the Ashes Series with the bat but today showed why she is one of the most exciting batters in the game.

Charlotte Edwards will again lead from the front both with the bat and on the field. She has the ability to inspire the best from their players and with so much at stake she will lift to another level.

Sarah Taylor has impressed with the bat the last couple of ODIs and has been exceptional behind the stumps. She is a real danger player for Australia

Ellyse Perry has a knack to put on a brilliant performance when matches are televised and seeing as she is hitting the ball well, I don’t see that coincidence changing.

BUCKLE UP IT IS GOING TO GET EXCITING

If you missed it, the @SouthernStars fought back @MCG with their first victory in the #WomensAshes. Catch the match highlights

With the English women requiring one more victory to clinch the Women’s Ashes, the Southern Stars enjoyed a mini break to attend the Allan Border Medal in Sydney.

 

After an amazing couple of days, Meg Lanning took out the Belinda Clark Medal; two points clear of her nearest rival, Erin Osborne.

 

Belinda Clark, also was rightfully acknowledged for her prowess on the field, as she became the first female to be inducted into the Australian Cricketers Hall of Fame along with Mark Waugh.

 

Selection:

 

As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and that was exactly what England did as they remained with the same winning side from Sunday’s first ODI.

 

Nothing was mentioned about Katherine Brunt’s back, but rumours have it that it is a tour ending injury and it will be interesting to see if they send her home or keep her within the group for experience.

 

For the Australians, there was only one change.  Indicating that Jodie Fields and Sarah Coyte are still out injured.  The top order has struggled for runs during this Ashes series as well as the last, therefore Elyse Villani made way for the highest run scorer in the WNCL this season, Nicole Bolton.

 

Nicole Bolton was presented her ODI cap by Jodie Fields and became the 127th player to represent Australia in this format.

 

The Toss:

 

For the second time in a row, Meg Lanning won the toss and had no hesitation to bat first.

 

Score:

 

Australia 7 – 266 defeated England All out 240 by 26 runs

 

Women’s Ashes Series Point Score:

 

England 8 points

Australia 2 points

There is still 8 more points up for grabs

 

Key Moments:

 

  • It was a nervous start for Bolton as she should have been run out without troubling the scorers, then she was dropped in the 5th & 6th over of the match. England just weren’t switched on in the field nor did they bowl with any consistency and they paid the ultimate price

 

  • Bolton certainly took the chances given to post her maiden hundred and become the first Australian female to score a century on debut. Bolton’s 124 runs took the pressure off the rest of the top order as she played all around the ground.

 

  • Jessica Cameron (44) came out of her shell to display the skills that has seen walk away with Player of the Match performance in the last two World Cup finals. Some of the shots that we saw that are synonymous with Cameron were her lusty blows over mid-off and the reverse sweep.

 

  • Australia was on track to post a score of 280 plus, but England fought back well late in the innings by picking up three wickets for 10 runs, restricting the Southern Stars to 7 for 266.

 

  • With a change in the bowling order for Australia, Holly Ferling took the new ball for the first time in her short career and after the first ball it was a stroke of genius. Ferling removed the English captain, Edwards for a golden duck.

 

  • Sarah Taylor seemed to be protected as she was dropped down the order to No. 4. That meant that Greenway was promoted, in a move that I believe restricted her impact on the game as Greenway is a wonderful finisher and seems more comfortable facing the older ball.

 

  • A positive for England despite the loss were that Heather Knight (55) and Taylor (63) were able to get amongst the runs for the first time.

 

  • England were clawing their way back in the match, when Bolton completed the fairytale when she ran out Taylor to swing the momentum back in Australia’s favour.

 

  • Natalie Sciver (57 off 42) seems the real deal. It was the first time that I had seen her live and her understanding of her game and the situation nearly pulled of a miracle innings to snatch victory under the noses of the Australians.

 

Where to now:

 

  • The final ODI will be played on Australia Day in Hobart in two days time, meaning that Australia have a great opportunity to get some momentum behind them.

 

  • England will need to be sharper in the field if they are going to regain the Ashes and as Taylor alluded to, sometimes you just have to accept that you have had a shocker and move on.

 

  • Dani Wyatt hasn’t given England much in the two ODI’s and wouldn’t be surprised to see a change. England may look to Elwiss for experience, but I would like to see another spinner added to the team for Hobart.