How will our Women’s Ashes Squad (@SouthernStars) go? #cricket #Ashes @TheRoarSports

Last week when James Sutherland announced the significant boost financially for female cricketers in Australia, lost in the media coverage was the Ashes squad that was also announced.

Unlike Michael Clarke’s squad, the media weren’t scrutinising every selection, talking about who just missed out and how the team would go in retaining the Ashes. Don’t get me wrong, it was great coverage for what could be a watershed moment for the women’s game, but discussion about the Ashes squad was almost an afterthought.

Therefore I thought that I might spend some time dissecting the squad and give my thoughts on which individuals might perform well in English conditions. Below is the squad that was selected:

Name State Age
Jodie Fields (c) QLD 28
Alex Blackwell (vc) NSW 29
Jess Cameron VIC 23
Sarah Coyte NSW 22
Sarah Elliott VIC 31
Holly Ferling QLD 17
Rachael Haynes NSW 26
Alyssa Healy NSW 23
Julie Hunter VIC 29
Jess Jonassen QLD 20
Meg Lanning VIC 21
Erin Osborne NSW 23
Ellyse Perry NSW 22
Megan Schutt SA 20
Elyse Villani VIC 23

With the success of the Southern Stars over the last summer, claiming both the T20 World Cup and 50-over World Cup, there was no surprise to see mostly the same girls selected for the Ashes squad.

The only changes are myself and Renee Chappell, who recently retired to focus on her career. I wonder, had she known about the new contract structure, whether she would have played on for another few seasons.

The two new inclusions from the recent 50-over World Cup squad are Jessica Jonassen and Sarah Elliott for the Test squad only.

Many of you may recall that Jessica had a wonderful T20 World Cup campaign in Sri Lanka, playing a key role in the final against England.

Unfortunately she missed the 50-over World Cup due to having knee surgery a few months prior to the team departing. As a young left-arm orthodox spinner this Ashes campaign will not only give her the opportunity to prove again that she belongs at this level, but cement her spot in the first XI for years to come.

The other inclusion is something of a surprise, as Sarah Elliott’s last game for Australia was actually the last Test match played at Bankstown oval in January 2011 where she made an unbeaten 81 to help Australia regain the Ashes. Since then she has had some time away from the game due to injury and also giving birth to her first child, Samuel.

Sarah’s inclusion for the Test only squad seems to be due to the selectors wanting to call on some experienced players during that period.

If you look at the ages of the players in the squad without Sarah in the team there are only four players over the age of 25 and none over the age of 30. This is combined with the squad having very little experience in the longer format.

I am sure the fact that Sarah has the ability to bat for long periods of time swayed the selectors in her favour.

One does have to feel sorry for Nicole Bolton, Western Australia’s captain and opening batter. Nicole had a great season in the both the domestic competitions (WNCL and WT20), by amassing over 600 runs in both formats and averaging a respectable 45.38 in WNCL and 31.56 in WT20. She also won WNCL player of the year (joint winner with Meg Lanning).

An immediate challenge for Nicole is that the Southern Stars currently have a number of openers already in the squad such as Haynes, Lanning and Villani. Nicole may have to bat in the middle order for Western Australia to show the selectors that she is versatile and can slot in there if required.

So what can we expect from the all-conquering Southern Stars in the crucial Test match?

The style of play from the Southern Stars is attacking, and the likes of Lanning and Cameron won’t necessarily change their game for a Test format. Either they will put Australia in a winning position by batting the Poms out of the game or they will fail, but as 21 and 23 years olds that is what you expect.

If Lanning and Cameron don’t fire, we can still look to Haynes (who scored a 98 on her Test debut), Fields (who has scored a Test century) and Blackwell (who is the most experienced player in the Test squad) to deliver match-winning batting performance.

And in a statement that might shock some, although Ellyse Perry is seen widely as the fastest bowler in the women’s game, she can also bat extremely well. I believe she is the only player in the squad that mentally trains to bat for long periods of time, thanks all to her Dad for throwing millions of balls to her each week.

Given the opportunity, Ellyse has the ability and the patience to post a large score. It will depend on where she bats in the order and the situation of the game, but she could add a Test century to her amazing career.

The bowling prospects will be led by Ellyse, but as she is returning from injury her workload must be managed to get through the Test, three ODIs and three T20s as they all count to the Ashes trophy.

Holly Ferling is set to make her Test debut and with Ellyse will form a wonderful pace attack.

Julie Hunter is a genuine swing bowler and with conditions at Wormsley expected to assist swing she will be a key in minimising the runs and allowing the other two to steam in and get under the Pom’s feathers.

As for the spin factor, the spearhead in this skill will be making their Test debut as neither Erin Osborne nor Jonassen have played a Test. With the inclusion of Sarah Eillott, also a decent off spinner, one of the two will make their debut and bowl plenty of overs!

If our top order can survive the swinging ball from Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole then we will go a long way to winning the Test match, but the joy of a Test match being played over four days means that there will be plenty of ebbs and flows during the match.

Landmark day for women’s sport as cricket cuts a cheque #cricket @TheRoarSports

21 May 2013 is now no ordinary day in the Australian sporting calendar. It will go down in history as the day that women’s sport took a giant leap towards professionalism.

On a sunny day in Sydney, with guests packed into Quay restaurant, James Sutherland, CEO of Cricket Australia, proudly announced that the Cricket Australia Board, led strongly by the current Chair, Wally Edwards, had taken the decision to allocate $1.59 million for the coming season for women’s player contracts at both Cricket Australia and State contract levels.

As James announced this, the room applauded the level of support the current crop of female athletes were about to receive.

In front of James sat a number of pioneers of the game, both on and off the field.

They included Maragret Jennings, who captained Australia in the 70′s and was also the Chair of selectors for the Southern Stars for a numbers of years; the Governor General, Quentin Bryce who not only is the Southern Stars number one supporter but who also played a significant role to ensuring integration of Women’s Cricket Australia and Cricket Australia; Australia’s most successful captain, Belinda Clark, who also holds one of the most important roles in Cricket Australia as the Senior Manager of the Centre of Excellence; and finally Rina Horem the first ever female to sit on a cricket board, Cricket NSW.

It must have been a very proud moment for those ladies, all of whom have spent countless hours on and off the field championing the women’s cause for better facilities, resources and the final hurdle, pay.

I believe that Rina was emotional when the announcement was made and all of us that were lucky enough to be invited will never forget the special day.

With this amount of money available to players it will see CA’s top contracts move from $15,000 to $52,000 and the minimum contract increased from $5,000 to $25,000. Gone are the days where the Australian team ran raffles to raise money for their tour, knit their own Test jumper on the boat to England and take leave without pay to play for their country.

Other increases included players’ tour allowance going from $100 per day to $250 per day. With a busy schedule ahead of our Southern Stars, with up to 85 days of touring, this will mean the top female cricketers have the potential to earn $70,000 to $80,000 for next season.

For me the biggest and most important announcement of the day was when James explained that each State Association and Cricket ACT would be allocated $100,000 a year towards contracts for their female players, with the maximum retainer being $7,000 and the minimum $2,500.

In addition, all female domestic players will also receive match payment for the first time, with a 50-over match (WNCL) earning $200 and a T20 (WT20) earning $120.

This will be the first time across the board that domestic players will have an opportunity to come out even at the end of the cricket season, instead of representing your State being an expense.

For a long time the players have felt that the domestic competition isn’t as strong as it could be, with players aged over 25 unable to commit to the domestic expectations due to their desire for a career and their need to earn money.

This money will hopefully allow those types of players a chance to stay longer in the game because they won’t need to juggle between University, part-time job, training requirements, and of course playing days.

I had always hoped that female cricketers would be able to achieve this level of support, but thought that it would still be a few years away.

With the recent success of the Southern Stars, by winning both the T20 and 50 over World Cups within a six month period, it has seen an unprecedented amount of media attention and support for the females who play cricket, and this has prompted the board to act.

I hope this will prompt other sporting organisations to act accordingly, where they have the financial resources in the game to do so, and support their female athletes appropriately. Hats off to Cricket Australia who have led the way in this field.

Look out everyone, the Southern Stars are here to play!

NOTE: I write a weekly article for The Roar sports website. This article also appears on The Roar website at www.roar.com.au

The Ashes of a slightly different kind #cricket #ashes @TheRoarSports

As Michael Clarke’s men face up against Alastair Cook’s, another Ashes clash will take place in England. The difference is we already hold the silverware.

Whom or what might it be? The Southern Stars? Yes – you are correct!

The very successful Southern Stars will do battle with our traditional rivals, England, in their own Ashes battle in August over in England.

In conjunction with the English Cricket Board, Cricket Australia have agreed on a new format regarding the Women’s Ashes.

Before I go through the details of the new format I should give you some background regarding Test cricket for women.

Tests have been played between the two nations since 1934 and it was decided in 1998 that we too would create our own Ashes trophy.

Both teams at the time signed a bat which was later burned, with the Ashes placed into a wooden ball.

Playing in my first Ashes Series in 2001 I thought the wooden ball was a poorer cousin to the men’s Ashes – it simply didn’t have the tradition.

But I guess it was only three years old when I first laid eyes on it, maybe after 100 years it would hold more significance.

Over the years the Ashes played by women rose in prestige and, ironically in some ways, was placed on the cricketing map when we actually lost it in 2005.

It so happened to be the same year the English men regained their Ashes too, but for us though it had been 42 years since England held the advantage in the Test arena.

I still remember seeing on the TV both the English teams paraded around London on double decker buses celebrating their success. Not a great feeling from where I was sitting.

Although, credit to the ECB for celebrating the success of both their national teams together and with such fanfare.

After losing the Ashes in 2005 it became even harder to regain, as the subsequent Test series to be played between England and Australia (the only two nations that want to play Test cricket for women) went down to one Test per series.

When I made my debut with the Australian squad in 2001 there were three Tests in the series, allowing both teams a real chance of winning.

Unfortunately, over the following years it went down to two matches and before we knew it, it was one match.

Then, just to make it a little harder, we only played it over four days, making it extremely difficult for the team who is trying to win it back.

Thankfully in 2011 we were able to win back the Ashes at Bankstown Oval thanks largely to Rene Farrell, who managed to pick up a hat-trick in England’s second innings to finish with figures of 5/23 off 17 overs.

Before that we had decided to declare 49 runs behind England’s first innings total, a brave move by our coach at the time Richard McInnes, to give ourselves the best chance to bowl them out and chase down whatever they set.

Sarah Elliott (81*) and Alex Blackwell (74) combined well to guide us to victory by putting on 125 runs for the third wicket partnership.

Therefore when the announcement came out this week that the Ashes will be contested over all three formats my initial thought was why?!

We had spent seven years fighting hard to win the Ashes back and now we were making it easier for England to regain it, instead of seeing who the winner was after both teams fought hard over four days at Wormsley from 13th – 16th August.

Once my traditionalist heart had calmed down, I must say it does make sense.

About four years ago the Southern Stars Squad had an admin camp in Melbourne, where Belinda Clark spoke honestly about the state of cricket for women.

In order for us to not be seen as an expense to the national boards we needed to build our profile and the way forward was Twenty/20 cricket, as it allowed us to piggy back the men and have some of our matches broadcast due to the infrastructure being set up already for the men.

With the women’s Ashes, there isn’t necessarily the tradition that is set in stone like the men, thereby allowing us to be a little more innovative in today’s market.

Plus it is important to create our own brand moving forward, as there seems to be more interest surrounding the women’s game than ever before.

So what is the new Ashes? It will be decided across all three formats with weighted points allocated to each of the games.

The team accruing the most points after the Test match, three ODIs and three T20s will be declared the winner of the Women’s Ashes Series.

I have set out below the point allocation. If there is a draw at the end of the seven matches, Australia will retain the Ashes as they are the current holders.

Date

Format

Venue

Points for a Win

Points for a Draw

11-14 August     

Test 

Wormsley Cricket Ground, Buckinghamshire

6 points           

 2 points   

20 August            

ODI

Lord’s, London

2 points           

1 point

23 August           

ODI

The County Cricket Ground, Hove

2 points           

1 point

25 August            

ODI

The County Cricket Ground, Hove

2 points           

1 point

27 August           

T20I

The County Ground, Chelmsford

2 points          

1 point

29 August            

T20I *

The Rose Bowl, Southampton*

2 points           

1 point

31 August            

T20I *

The Riverside Ground, Durham*

2 points           

1 point

*Double-header with men’s T20 International (England v Australia)

Given we are tinkering with tradition, I really hope the new format will generate greater interest in the Women’s Ashes over the English and Australian summers this season.

No doubt it will be a hard-fought and highly entertaining contest with some of the best international players on show.

NOTE: I write a weekly article for The Roar sports website. This article also appears on The Roar website at www.roar.com.au

.@kathkoschel: For the love of the game @TheRoarSports #cricket

Being someone who loves to know everything that is going on in the world of cricket, I can sometimes unknowingly focus solely on the international male and females players.

Yet right beside us, on the train, on the bus, at the shopping centre or in the work place, people who love the game as much as I do are having their own individual battles based around the cricket field.

Last Friday night I was reminded by a past work college, ex-flatmate, ex-teammate and most importantly, a friend, of the private battle she faced because of her love of the game.

Up until last year, Kath Koschel had a typical cricket story like most of us – brought up on the game of cricket in the backyard with her brothers and father, she then decided to turn her attention to actually being on the field competing instead of chasing after the balls hit by her brothers.

Kath found her home of cricket with St George Cricket Club at an early age, and she was selected for the NSW junior teams along the way as she progressed through the age groups .

Once she was in the land of senior cricket, Kath initially found it difficult to break into the Breakers (as most of us do). The team is regularly made up of current Australian players and consistently wins the Women’s National Cricket League title.

However, Kath bided her time and eventually, due to performances in first grade for the St George/Sutherland club, she gained selection into the Breakers squad for 2010/2011 season.

Kath’s time with the Breakers has left a lasting impact on me. During Kath’s time with the team, I witnessed firsthand what the power of elite sport can do to a player that wants it so bad.

Like any elite athlete, to be successful cricketers must go through a continual process of assessing your strengths and weaknesses. For Kath the major area she identified that needed improvement was her fitness.

There are some athletes that choose to do the hard work, and there are others that face it front on and push the limits. Kath was certainly one that pushed her body to the limit.

I would see her every morning and evening, before and after work, smashing herself at the Cricket NSW gym, and over the course of a few months she was one of the fittest players in the squad.

It was around September of 2010 that she started to experience back pain. Being a private person and a hard trainer she just kept her head down and focused on training.

I still remember the day that I was hanging around in the physio room in November 2010 when the physio at the time, Kate Blackwell (Alex’s twin sister) asked Kath what her symptoms were.

“I can’t feel my leg,” she said casually.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and for the next few minutes Kate checked everything, and Kath was right; she couldn’t feel anything in her left foot.

Over the next few weeks a number of discussions took place between Kath and the medical staff. There was a NSW second XI tour coming up in mid-December, but more importantly Cricket NSW were concerned about her health as they take athlete welfare very seriously.

Notwithstanding the initially confronting symptoms related to her back pain, Kath simply did not want to miss the second XI tour. She had worked her butt off for six months and there was no way that she was not going to play.

I was the assistant coach/manager of the team at the time and I witnessed what an amazing tournament Kath had! She consistently scored runs, capping it off by scoring 102 againt Western Australia.

These performances secured her a position in the Breakers team for the next round of matches against South Australia, and her dream to represent NSW at an open level was just about to come true.

Even then Kath was still having major issues with her back. Those issues were certainly affecting her foot, her running and her game, even in aspects like playing a ball on leg stump.

But who would give up the opportunity to represent your state in the game you passionately love? Not many people, and certainly not Kath Koschel. It had been a long battle for Kath to get here and there was nothing that was going to stop her.

While living out her dream and playing on the Adelaide oval, her debut was made even more special as she guided NSW to a vital win and raised her bat after posting 57 runs at the top of the order.

After that match, her world as she knew it would change forever. She started to experience foot drop, a condition that saw her not able to move her toes or flex her foot.

She began to drag her foot along as she walked, and in March 2011 she had the first of her two back surgeries to try and rectify the situation.

After months and months of rehabilitation things got worse, ultimately culminating in the devastating and confronting news at the end of last year that she may have to lose her leg.

Having woken up one morning with no feeling in her leg from the hip down, and losing control of her bladder and bowel, Kath realised that it had become an emergency.

In typical Kath fashion she still drove herself to the hospital, where she was told that the blood pressure in her leg was dangerously low and that they would have to amputate her leg from the knee down.

Kath, being quite stubborn and leading a very active life, couldn’t bare the thought of losing her leg, even though she respected that the doctors were doing what was best regarding her health.

She argued and argued, and in doing that she bought herself more time. She was given a deadline of two weeks to get the pressure up to a suitable level. If the pressure was to drop to a critical stage again, a full leg amputation would be required.

As if everything else wasn’t bad enough, it was at this moment that Kath finally allowed herself to feel the emotion of everything that she had experienced over the previous months, accentuated by her simultaneously dealing with the best and most challenging experiences life has to offer.

Even though she was exhausted from countless sessions in rehab, keeping down a full time job here at Cricket NSW, plus keeping this enormous challenge a secret to herself, yet again she dusted herself off the canvas and somehow found the strength to give herself the best chance of keeping her leg.

Kath hit the gym at all hours of the day, and just 24 hours before the deadline she had been given, the doctors discovered that she was bleeding internally and it was that bleed that was preventing the right amount of blood to circulate around her left leg.

With this news, Kath won the first important battle – to keep her leg.

Whenever I think about what Kath must have been going through I am astounded but not surprised.

Throughout what was possibly the hardest days she had experienced, Kath demonstrated the same motivation and drive that had given her the opportunity to represent NSW.

Exemplifying the magic of human spirit and will, Kath somehow found a way to keep her leg despite countless doctors insisting that it would never get any better.

So why tell you this story?

Firstly, it is truly an inspiring story of what one person can do if they put their mind to it. The strength people find when there are no other options is truly amazing, and this should be celebrated as. It is more important than how many runs or wickets someone has tallied.

Secondly, I am sure that there are plenty of athletes in similar situations trying to make it to the top. How far will they go to reach their dream? Maybe this story will inspire them to push just one more time when it feels like their dream is out of their reach?

I am sure that there may be times that Kath regrets not taking the time off to heal properly, but on the flip side she has met some wonderful people, brought some much needed attention to a charity that gives so much to people they help, and undoubtedly has a closer bond to her family that have been her rock since it has all happened.

You can read the full story of Kath’s struggle here, and if you feel touched by her story please support Limbs for Life.

NOTE: I write a weekly article for The Roar sports website. This article also appears on The Roar website at www.roar.com.au

Hussey or Gayle…Who would you select? @theRoarSports #cricket

On The Cricket Club show last Monday night there was a healthy debate around the power of Chris Gayle and the finesse of Michael Hussey.

The conversation then went to a consideration of who you would select if you were an owner of a franchise in the IPL or that matter, any T20 competition.

So let’s look at the statistics first before I tell you who I would select.

From the current IPL, Gayle is currently ranked number one in most runs with 484.

He is followed closely by Hussey, who sits on 450 runs.

If we dig a little deeper into those statistics we’ll see that in Gayle’s 484 runs, he did score that remarkable 175 runs off 66 balls against Pune Warriors last week.

By doing so, he broke all records while hitting a massive 17 sixes.

Gayle is also averaging 80 and his strike-rate is 166.89, which are pretty impressive figures, but he has scored that massive hundred and then only two fifties.

It seems like Gayle enjoys the Indian conditions the IPL produce as last IPL tournament he was the leading run scorer by a long way, by massing 733 runs at an average of 61 and hit a phenomenal 59 sixes.

On the other hand Hussey is currently averaging 64 and his strike-rate is 133.13. Despite have lower numbers he has scored more fifties, four in fact with one of those being a 95 against the Mumbai Indians.

Looking at both players and those statistics there would be no hesitation in selecting Gayle as he is a match winner and if on song there is no ground big enough for him to clear.

But I would actually select Hussey, why?

Although his statistics aren’t as good as Gayle I feel that Hussey is more reliable and a consistent performer.

In terms of my own coaching philosophy, I believe you need to look at more than statistics when choosing your best team, and you need to be mindful that your best players may not always have the best statistics when viewed in isolation.

Also, it’s important to also consider at what stage runs are made or wickets are taken. For example, it’s very easy to hit runs if your team isn’t under pressure.

So, when selecting players, you sometimes have to consider what else the player will bring to the group and this is where I believe Gayle and Hussey differ considerably.

Having never met Chris Gayle I can only go by what I have seen on the TV and things that I have read about or heard.

Hussey tends to be the perfect cricketer, he works hard, is upbeat around the group, seems to put the team before himself and doesn’t leave a stone unturned regarding his preparation to the game.

Then by contrast you have Gayle who certainly portrays a different character.

I am not a fan of him keeping his pads on for the rest of the batting innings if he gets out cheaply.

From my perspective, unless it is really cold what is the point?

You have had your turn and missed out, now it is your job to support the others that are going in.

Also, during the BBL 12/13 season, where he had a terrible tournament for the Sydney Thunder, there was chatter around the cricketing traps that sometimes he didn’t attend training as much as some of the other guys.

Whilst he may have had good reasons for not being there, when your team is doing it tough it is really important that everyone gives that little extra, even if it is means going over and above what you usually so in terms of preparation.

You would hope that if any designated batsman was averaging 19 and had only scored one half century during a tournament, combined with the team not performing to a consistently competitive standard, that he would know that it’s in his and the team’s best interest to be doing over and above what he usually does.

Great players have the ability to inspire and motivate their teammates.

Gayle may do so via his own performance on the field, but Hussey seems like the type of player that has the same ability but also inspires his teammates by his passion and willingness to do what he can in his power to see each and every one of them succeed.

Who would you select?

NOTE: I write a weekly article for The Roar sports website. This article also appears on The Roar website at www.roar.com.au