India deemed a success. Read my last blog as the Suthern Stars say farewell to India in style!

Our last two matches were played under lights. Given this is something that doesn’t happen very often, there was a buzz amongst the group. With the match starting at 6.30pm the team wasn’t accustomed to the late start and were bored out of their minds. We had already won the series so the selectors changed their focus to giving other players opportunities to get use to the sub-continent conditions, so I was rested.

The benchies role within the team is vital as they actually do a lot of running around to make sure that the team is well hydrated. Being rested meant that I didn’t HAVE to complete fitness but as I reclined in my chair in the change room I felt bad that Leah was doing it all by herself so stupidly I completed the session with her (what was I thinking)!

According to most of my teammates I have taken over in the being the biggest pest within the team, closely followed by Midge. So sitting off this game served only to increase my verbal diarrhoea and annoyance of others. I believe Russ or should I call him Steve (named after eating dinner by himself whilst reading the autobiography of Steve Jobs and the fact that he looks like a Steve) wished that i was on the field instead of sitting next to him.

Whilst these shenanigans was occurring on the sidelines, the girls were playing some exciting cricket, with our bowlers dominating the Indian batters straight away. Julie Hunter lead the way with best figures of 4/15. During our batting innings, I was asked to be a guest commentator, so I jumped at the chance. I managed to stay for the entire batting innings and had so much fun. I hope that it came across well and gave the viewers a bit of an insight in how the Australians tackle the game. We went on not to lose a wicket in the chase, with Midge backing up from her 90 to post another 50 and Meg continued her role as the supporter ( though I think she prefers to be the aggressor).

A game that we often play to pass the time is either guessing our final total or when we will reach the target score. Surprisingly our Media manager Alana (aka Alan) got it right – who would of thought it! I must make note she has done a wonderful job in trying to lift our profile in India and back at home, hopefully this is the start of her touring with us regularly.

We chased down their total of 80 odd in the 13th over giving us a 4 nil lead with one match to go. A few of us learnt from our previous days boredom to actually venture out of the hotel before our final match, and this time Soggy came. For a laugh we went back to the shop we had visited a few nights previous, and as soon as we entered the sales assistant was quick to try and sell something to Sog or should I say ‘Shoggy.’ ” Come have a look Shoggy, you don’t have to buy, just come look, come on Shoggy, come.” Sog wasn’t moving an inch as she had strategically positioned herself behind a clothes rack!

Our final match didn’t quite go to plan as Goswami was back and that seemed to lift the Indian team. She produced her best figures of 5/11 with myself being one of those wickets and we were all bowled out in the 19th over only posting 89.

It was going to be tough but our bowlers had done the job before. As soon as the first two deliveries were bowled and Sharma edged them through the slips cordon for consecutive boundaries, I knew it was going to be one of those days. I managed to come on and pick up the first (and only) 2 wickets, but in the end it wasn’t enough as India posted their first win of the tour. The conditions that we played in were the strangest that I have ever experienced as the amount of dew on the ground would make it difficult to throw the ball in after it had rolled on the ground for only a small amount of time. Our bowlers found it difficult but on the flip side you could slide that more easily.
Although disappointing to lose the last match and not come away with a whitewash, as a group we had competed extremely well with the youngsters being the stars! A few drinks in the change room with the usual “let’s see who I can tackle of more importantly throw in the ice bath” meant that you couldn’t snooze. A mistake made by the youngster Meg who had consumed a few drinks and was quietly minding her own business when Russell decided to throw the drinks container full of water and ice on her….not happy Jan! That only sparked an outrage from the rest of the players as we tackled him and found some toilet water to throw on him hehehe.

Back to the hotel for a few more drinks, pizza and the most important thing, ice-cream with chocolate sauce and nuts (we are all going to be disappointed when it won’t be served up after our first meal back at home). Also that night gave Midge, Pez and I a chance to don on our lovely tops that we bought whilst here. I am glad that we didn’t have to leave the hotel!

Now for a special guest writing a little, anyone want to take a guess who it is??

“The second last day sees us flying back to Mumbai to spend the night here, before we fly out for home the next morning. It is also Midge’s 22nd birthday. Having known Midge for the best part of 13 years, I can honestly say that there have been moments where I have had my doubts she would reach her twenty’s. Luckily for her she has had Ellyse Perry guiding here through some of those rougher patches. It will be great to have a final team dinner tonight to celebrate Midge’s birthday and also Meg Lanning’s birthday, which is the following day.”

All in all it was a great tour with India dishing up their food, culture and hospitality and along the way the Southern Stars have banded together stronger than ever and are looking forward to our next campaign – the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka.

Till then thanks for taking the time to read these blogs, I hope I have entertained you in some small way and helped you procrastinate to avoid what you should have actually been doing 🙂

Victorious in Vizag

My first impression of Vizag is that of a poor cousin of the Gold Coast, for those back home it is the Sunshine Coast. A holiday destination for Indians, the beach is packed with lots of people but none actually venturing in the water. See I am a typical Indian, love being at the beach, but I am happy not to enter!

Due to contracting the flu from my last roommate (thanks Julie Hunter) I have been placed in isolation. It isn’t as bad as it sounds as I actually get my own room which is nice for a change.

With the tight playing schedule our first of 5 T20’s was played the next morning and by the time we tossed the coin at 9.30am the humidity was becoming unbearable. I can now understand why we are playing matches in the morning and our last two at 6.30pm. I think we would all die if we played them in the mid afternoon.

In keeping with their form in the ODI’s both Meg Lanning (34) and Jessica Cameron (67) gave us a perfect base to post a score of 138. Even though the wicket was a batters paradise, with a slow outfield and the fact we could build scoreboard pressure put us well and truly in the box seat and as a result, we kept the Indians to 8/109. I chimed in with 3 wickets at the end, the joy of coming on late in the innings when they are going for it. Either you get hit for a six or get a few wickets and I was on the lucky side.

Oh one thing that I have forgotten to mention is that this hotel has a few power outages, so everyone hopes that they aren’t in the lift when it happens. Also Fitz has befriended a pregnant cat whom she has named as Julia and religiously feeds 3 times a day (god knows what the cat will do after we leave).

With the first 3 matches being played in the morning means that we have the afternoon/evening off so there has been a few that have ventured out to hit the shops. It would appear that Vizag doesn’t seem to mind how many you can fit in a tuk tuk with the norm being above 8 people.

Whilst walking around we arrived to this huge roundabout with cars coming every direction, so I decided we should all play chicken where we have to walk at the same pace into the middle of the roundabout. So mature aren’t I? We did however make it, the joys of India where they will go around you, don’t think that I would try it at home!

During our shopping expedition Midge did find a bee bee gun and with that the games were on back at the hotel. What started was simply firing at empty cans rapidly escalated into open warfare between 5 of us over a number of levels. Biggest kid, Richard, followed closely by Julie Hunter!

Our second T20 we lost the toss and found ourselves in the field. The bowling group has done an extremely good job over here on wickets that don’t give a lot of assistance and today wasn’t any different. Despite not picking up many wickets, 3 in fact, we were able to keep the Indians to 111, which wasn’t ever going to be enough. Again Meg (40) and Jessica C (68) formed the winning partnership as we passed their total in the 18th over only losing 2 wickets in the process.

With a rare day off there were three different groups that tried to entertain themselves.
1) Alex, Jak and Julie S (manager) decided to make the whole day trip to the caves, only to travel 2 hours and hit a road block due to the locals not happy about coconut prices! So back they came another 2 hours in the car, so much fun.
2) Our Doc, got a group together to head out to a temple that was an hours drive away. As soon as I saw who was going it was always going to be a flop, as Jessica Cameron and Shaz had put their hand up. Without fail they arrived and weren’t allowed into the temple as there was a services taking place

3) The final group were the ones who didn’t making any plans and chilled out in the room, by the pool and facials, threading and studied. I had strategically placed myself in this group and had a lovely day off!

To top off the day I hit the shops again with Midge, Pez and Shaz. Whilst I was purchasing a little Indian outfit for my nephew a very enthusiastic sales assistant proceeded to start throwing clothes in front of Midge and Pez. It just so happened to be sexy laundry. The girls managed to stop the entire store when they went to try it on and came out to show Shaz and I.

Today was our final morning T20 match and with Julan Goswami accepting her Padim Shri award in Dehli our new opening combination of Meg and Midge took full advantage of the bowlers putting on a 112 run opening stand. Meg finished just shy of 50 and Midge blasted the ball to all parts of the ground to make an impressive 90 runs. A feature of her innings was when she continually went to switch hit against Bisht who kept stopping, in the end Midge won the battle as she nearly hit a 6 left handed!

With a handy total of 151 our bowlers were impressive again restricting the Indians to 88 with Sarah Jane picking up 3 wickets and Pez picking up 2 in 2 balls. It was the biggest margin that we have won a match and gave us a series win in the T20’s.

Two more to go that will be day/night matches and hopefully a clean sweep of the series. It has been great to see our young players absolutely dominate the Indians.

Finally I hope that everyone wore some orange today to celebrate Harmony Day! I wonderful day that celebrates our multiculturalism with sport playing a huge role in accepting everyone!

We say goodbye to Mumbai as we wrapped up the ODI series and head to Vizag for the T20 series

Our arrival to Mumbai was smooth sailing and no sooner had we landed, we were whisked away to our grand hotel, The Taj. Russell had planned for us to do a recovery session but I wasn’t sure how the hotel guests would cope with us splashing about in their 5 star pool!

I took a few of the girls out to hit the local shops and man, when it comes to bartering, Alex is just too nice. She was easily swayed by all the sellers and there was one particular drummer man who kept walking with us for the entire shopping experience. A few purchases were made for home and it was a good chance to get out of the hotel and explore what the city had to offer us.

Some of the stories that I have heard of the others experience is of Leah being yelled at by a shop assistant to come into their shop – she probably should have kept walking. Sharon again wasn’t successful with her outing as Alana (media manager) managed to take her and a few others to the local food markets instead of the shopping markets, where they witness how they kill the chickens here in India. Needless to say not many of them have eaten chicken since then.

With a tight schedule our 2nd ODI was the day after we landed in Mumbai and without a look at the Wankhede stadium our adjusting occurred when we were sent into bat. The wicket seemed a lot bouncier than Ahmedabad and there was plenty of movement in the air and off the wicket from the Indian openers. Our openers negated the swing and soon after they departed Meg and Alex went about putting together a solid partnership of 175. Meg was the dominant player hitting the Indian bowlers around the park and when she got out for 128, I found myself in with a few overs remaining. Unfortunately I managed to nick the first delivery I faced and was heading back to the pavilion and all those stairs that I had only just walked down minutes earlier – oh at least I padded up well 🙂

Our batting innings was finished with a flurry of runs from Jess C and we posted 300 runs. Obviously the wicket had become a road and we knew that we needed to pick up early wickets. Thanks to Pez that occurred as she ripped out the hearts of the Indians picking up 3 wickets. From there wickets consistently fell every couple of overs with Rach picking up 3, Jess J 1 and myself 1. I am sure that Pez was thinking “get me on” as there weren’t many wickets left. Jodie did bring her on with 2 wickets remaining and with that Pez managed to pick up her second 5 wicket haul. We completely dominated India and probably inflicted their biggest defeat as we won by 221 runs. A great win to give us the ODI series!

After the match Midge, Pez and I went out to dinner with the Podar family and Healy family. In typical Indian style there was plenty of food to go around with pizzas, risotto, pasta and everything that was Western.

Our rest day wasn’t necessarily a rest day as everyone tried to jam pack what they wanted to do in Mumbai in one day. First stop was shopping where our local guide, Vedica took us to a shop where I was able to purchase my sisters request of presents. Then we rushed back to the hotel where I had organised Bolloywood dancing. A theme for this trip is all about getting out of our comfort zone both on and off the field and for me dancing is definitely out of my comfort zone.

Prerna was kind enough to offer her services to teach a group of us the essential moves of Bolloywood dancing. Let’s just say there is plenty of bum shaking, hand movements and facial gestures that accompany the Indian music. Not sure if I want to see the vision of our moves, but it was definitely a lot of fun.

The afternoon consisted of a quick net session for the group, with us having to take off our pads when facing spinners against the countless net bowlers and then back to the hotel for recovery and then a quick change for our team dinner. It was Jules birthday so we decided to have our first and probably only team dinner of the tour. The theme for dinner was that you had to get dressed in the colours of the Indian flag. Now there are some within the group that go all out eg Fitz and Julie (Manager) who decided to wear bright orange stockings with white pants and green shirts and then there was Alex, Pez and Midge that went the traditional outfit of a Salware (long shirt over baggy pants) but between all of them formed the Indian flag.

To keep up with the cuisine here in Mumbai we had Mediterranean food for dinner It was extremely tasty and reminded me of eating back home. The only issue with a team dinner is that it takes forever to feed a group of 20+ people and with a game the next day everyone was soon out of there after the birthday cake was eaten.

Our final ODI was again successful with the bowlers doing extremely well to keep a determined Indian team to 176 runs off their 50 overs. There were times when the Indians weren’t playing a lot of shots, but the bowling group persisted and the wickets were again shared by all the bowlers.

There was a change in our batting line up as Midge came in for Leah, but we lost a few wickets and unfortunately Meg couldn’t pick up where she left her last innings. Never fear Jess C (90*) was there to smash the ball to all parts of the ground, between her and Rach they gave us a solid platform. I managed to spend some time in the middle and my main aim was to get Jess on strike. When I got out to Nooshin, to give her her 100th ODI wicket (aren’t I nice!), Jess and I had put on close to a 50 run partnership with myself only contributing 11, quite funny.

We reached the target in the 33rd over to give us a whitewash of the ODI series. So we say goodbye to Mumbai and hello to Vishakhapatnam (I think we will stick to Vizag) to play the T20 series. Maybe my luck might change with the bat in the different format, but the main thing is that we all have been playing some good cricket hopefully that will continue in the T20’s.

First stop Ahmedabad….

First stop Ahmedabad…..

Since I last left you we had our first day in Ahmedabad, but after that I can’t really give you anymore simply because I was asleep for most of it. The morning of our first session was met with sprints and I was worried how I would feel especially given during the warm up lap I tasted what I had for breakfast. I managed to get through the sprints – just, but the next 20 min was spent in the bathroom.

I had no idea what was going on, I thought that I was over my illness, but obviously not. The only positive about the whole thing was that I slept. I would stay awake for a few hours and that was enough to put me to sleep for another 4 hours plus still manage to get 12 hours sleep at night.

Whilst I was in hibernation the rest of the girls ventured out of the hotel to see the town celebrate Holi! This festival is know as the colour festival with everyone throwing colour dust on each other. We had already experienced it at training when Julie Savage (manager) and Claire Stokes (physio) were stealthy in their attack on the group.

From the stories I have been told, Midge and Pez managed to get taught how to dance by the locals when they wandered the back streets near our hotel, plus seemed to make friends with the hotel staff who went to the extent to have breakfast sorted for them the night before! Jessica Cameron and Sharon Millanta decided that they would actually venture out of the hotel only to be shooed away from the temple as soon as they arrived. I think they both may now stay put in the hotel unless I get them out and about!

Apart from the adventures we have actually started playing some cricket. Our first task was against a Board XI where we couldn’t play all 14, so I was rested. We lost the toss and they elected to bat. Over the course of the 50 overs the girls bowled well and managed to pick up 5 run outs along the way.

Their total of a 166 didn’t pose a threat to our batters as Rachel (76) and Meg (46) made light work of it and we finished the game before the 25th over. The only crowd that rolled in were the huge monkeys that had fun running around in the empty stands. It definitely kept all of us amused.

The morning of the match we had to leave at 7am, it was the first time that I have had to get up for a match when it was still dark. We won the toss this time and elected to bat. Despite losing Leah early, Rachel (41) and Meg (45) again showed their class. When we lost them both in consecutive overs the Indian spinners started to put the squeeze on. Both Alex and I struggled to pierce the field and when I ran out Alex, Jodie came to the wicket and got things moving. Both Jodie (67) and Erin (27) registered their highest ODI score and gave us a competitive score of 228.

Our turn in the field followed and it was hard going as the wicket was flat and hard! Sharon picked up her first ODI wicket and then around the 70 run mark we picked up 4 quick wickets. I managed to pick up 2 wickets thanks to a brilliant catch from Alex and from there we slowly increased their required run rate.

Typical of how India bat, they all of a sudden flicked a switch and within a matter of time they were back in the hunt with Goswami (33) and Kaur (57) nearly taking the game away from us. Thankfully their required run rate had hit 10 per over and in the end we won by 30 runs.

A solid start to the ODI series with still some improvements to be made. We leave Ahmedabad and head to the big smoke of Mumbai, till then have a good day 🙂

2nd Blog is now up! The lauch of #Shaker was a success and the start of the Southern Stars begin in India.

D-Day and start of the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars tour

It was the night before the launch of my book “Shaker”, and all through the hotel not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. I was excited about what lay ahead but woke up at 2:30am in a hot sweat with the awful feeling of needing to be sick!

And that’s what it was like for the next four hours and by the end of it there was nothing left in me. I wish that Russel (or Strength and Conditioner) was taking skinfolds and my weight as I would have had personal bests!

It was the first time after so many visits to India that I had actually gotten sick. I had thought that I had done something wrong but in a strange sense I was glad to find out that I wasn’t the only one. Obviously something was not quite right especially when the manager of the hotel also goes down!

I was so sapped of energy but the show had to go on. I staggered into a car where I curled up into the foetal position and four hours later we arrived to bustling metropolis of Mumbai. I think that I would hold my own here behind the wheel. With no real road rules and the use of the horn a must, there isn’t a dull moment when on Indian roads! It was the first time since I have been back since 2004 and boy, had it changed! More on that later…..

Having not eaten or drunk anything I was sympathetic to Sachin’s offering of vegemite on toast for an afternoon snack. The comfort of home food unfortunately was a quick fix as I still had a raging a temperature.     

A couple of hours before the launch we headed to the Cricket Club of India to attend to the finer details, but it at least got me out of the hotel and thinking of something else instead of being sick. As it got closer to 8pm more and more people were rolling in. I had no idea how the night was to unfold so I was pleasantly surprised when there were a number of camera crews and journalists in attendance.

I was fortunate enough to have a number of ex-Indian captains, including Dilip Vengsakar, and ex-Australian fast bowler and NSW captain Geoff Lawson to assist in launching the book.

Thankfully my adrenaline kicked in as I forgot about my illness and “Shaker” was officially launched on Monday 5th March 2012!

It has certainly been an interesting process writing the book, but even scarier to actually publish it. Before we knew it was 11pm and Sachin, Shaun and I were exhausted but so pleased with how it ran.

I do need to thank both the gentlemen for all their support during this whole process.

If you would like to buy the book please head to http://www.lisasthalekar.com as it will be available online by the March 12.

The final day before I met up with the Southern Stars was spent relaxing at the Taj by the poolside, doing a little bit of shopping and trying to catch a few more “zzzzz”. I had to make sure that I firstly recovered from my bought of sickness and was well rested for the coming tour.  I did managed to go past Café Leopold (that is for anyone that has read Shantaram – a great read!).

It seems that as soon as I settled into my king sized bed my alarm went off at the ridiculous hour of 2.45am. The only advantage in getting up at that time was that it was a breeze to get to the airport! It was great to see the rest of the girls, albeit a little sleep deprived and I am sure that they all just wanted to get to Ahmedabad.

There actually happens to be a number of girls that don’t like flying so when our domestic flight hit the ground there was a sign of relief, only to realise the Captain wanted to see if the breaks were working by putting them on right near the end of the runway!

Our accommodation is great, only issue is the transparent bathroom, might be a concern when it comes to showering at night!!!

As I was already used to the time difference and not jet lagged (despite the early morning wake-up call) I wanted to do something. Ellyse Perry (Pez), Alyssa Healy (Midge), Julie Hunter and I thought that we would explore what Ahmedabad had to offer but it was before 10am so the shops weren’t open.

Instead, our adventure took us to Gandhi’s Ashram but before that we had to get there. Two lovely rickshaw drivers offered their services and not knowing where we were going we were in their hands! We did manage to get a view of the city as it was on the other side.

The Ashram was an amazing place with so much information about a special man! Midge provided the quote of the day with “I wish I could say something as inspirational as what he did!”

If only Midge!!

Anyway, an early night to be had as the cricket part of the tour begins tomorrow. Big day with training and a number of meetings. Till next time!

First of many blogs as the Southern Stars tour India. First stop Pune, “Going Home!” #cricket

GOING HOME!

My last few days in Sydney were met with rain, rain and more rain, so when I heard the Captain announce that it was currently 20 degrees, 2am in the morning in Mumbai, I was a happy camper.

I left for India 5 days prior to the rest of the team and travelling to India by yourself was something that I was definitely not use to. Normally the cool calm collected character when travelling, certainly not the case this time.

As I got off the plane, the smell and heat welcomed me home, but my anxiety levels increased as I wasn’t sure if the driver was going to be waiting for me. I had been to Mumbai a number of times for family holidays, the last time being in 2004 for cricket, so I knew how difficult the airport can be especially when you are sleep deprived. To my surprise the airport and road systems have improved considerably and it was a breeze.

Another 2.5 hours in the car to travel to Pune and I was home. It was the first time that I had been back to Pune since I was born and as soon as daylight shone on the city, you couldn’t take the smile off my face. The warmth of the sun and the people make me feel so comfortable.

The reason for the early departure is to launch my book “Shaker” in Mumbai. It has been a long yet cathartic 2.5 years putting this book together and it is finally done. Not only does it excite me, but scares the pants off me as well.

Sachin Bajaj from the Global Cricket Academy is publishing the book and has allowed me to prepare for the up coming series by using the facilities here in Pune, prior to the launch Apart from training with the ICC European Development Squad ( guys from Italy, Gibraltar, Ireland etc) I have had an opportunity to visit the place where I was adopted from.

Shaun was able to locate the place and we began our adventure at Sassoon Hospital, where we needed to find a certain building number to meet a lady who looks after the orphanage. With signs not in English, the first place we entered was what I think was the emergency area and I thought St Vincents was bad.

Once we found the right building we were escorted to the child centre, the exact centre that I would have stayed in. Shaun being the gentleman that he is kept enquiring if I was ok and I was astonished that I was fine. I guess I have always wanted to visit and I was lucky enough to get the chance now.

It was strange being there, yet very typical of my stay already, the staff were very warm in welcoming home and even conducted a little ceremony for Shaun and I. I was able to go into the 3 rooms that housed some of the children.

Room 1 was for the 6mths – 6 year, but majority of children are adopted out by the age of 2.
Room 2 was for the 3mths – 6mths, where I was playing with a little girl, who I found out was being adopted by an American couple.
Room 3 was for newborns – 3mths. As we were taken up a spiral staircase I knew that my parents had made that same journey 32 years ago.

Within this small room would have been a dozen small and I mean small babies all resting peacefully. It was amazing see these nurses and volunteers really care for the children who have either been abandoned or handed in due to circumstances that prevented them caring for the child.

I was able to meet a coupe from Sweden that were in the process of adopting 2 children from the centre. The special thing about this adoption was that the female was herself an adoptee from the same centre and was now coming back to adopt. I have always joked that I would love to do that, but here in front of me someone was doing exactly that.

I presented them with a playing shirt and hopefully this is the start of a wonderful relationship. Organisations survive through donations and whilst we were there found out that it only takes $20 to feed 50 children for a whole day. Seeing as the centre looks after 65 children at the moment it isn’t that much money is it!

What a day, something that i will never forgot and am so thankful for Shaun help in finding the place. If you would like to see some photos of my time there please visit my Facebook fan page.

Next stop Mumbai for the book launch and to catch up with the rest of the team as we being our tour.