Ellyse Perry has admitted that not all has been smooth-sailing for Australia in the lead-up to their upcoming face-off against India in the triangular series final on Wednesday, as the hosts lost two games out of four (one of them in a Super Over against England) in the competition – the same as the other two teams in the fray. The final, to be played at Junction Oval, will be a key signpost on Australia’s road towards the T20 World Cup final at the MCG on March 8, the showpiece event a major chance for the women’s game to build on its already spectacular growth in terms of broadcast audiences and attendances.
Perry, who was awarded the Belinda Clark Medal for 2019 on Monday, however, is confident that the team’s long-term plans, namely that which places her in the middle-order beneath Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney, Ashleigh Gardner and captain Meg Lanning, are the right ones to tackle a global tournament.
Losses to England and India meant that the Australians needed to beat England in their final qualifying match on Sunday to ensure they reached the final, something they did off the back of their powerful pace-bowling contingent, of which Perry is undoubtedly the spearhead. They will be hoping to repeat that performance against India, who had boldly chased down a target of 174 on Saturday with a starburst of shots that left Lanning’s team looking occasionally bereft of answers.
“I’d love to see it [women’s cricket] get to the point down the track that it’s elite, it supports itself, so the revenue we generate through ticket sales and broadcast deals and those kinds of things means it’s really standing on its own feet. That in my mind is really the Mecca of women’s cricket”
“I think it’s been mixed actually. This series has been really important for us in terms of our preparation and ironing out a few kinks,” Perry said. “I think we’ve played a lot of cricket over the last 12 months, more so than we ever have, and it’s something that the boys have dealt with for a long, long period of time but it’s something we’re still coming to grips with and trying to understand.
“Initially, when we came back together it’s almost been a little bit rusty, but certainly as the series has gone on and the more time we’ve spent together we’ve been a lot more clinical in the way that we’ve played. So, I think it’s been perfect that we’ve had such a competitive series against two of the other nations in the world that are the best at the moment.
“Wednesday will be a great challenge against India given that the last game they chased down a pretty imposing total with relative ease, but you don’t want to be peaking too early, and the fact that we’ve improved as we’ve gone on in this series sets us up really nicely leading into the World Cup. In saying that I think it’s going to be a huge challenge and this series has really highlighted that as well.”
A portentous phase of the previous India match arrived when Perry and Rachael Haynes were unable to build on the rapid scoring of Gardner and Lanning earlier in the innings, as they cobbled 22 from 3.1 overs after the duo, part of the top four, had piled up 79 in 7.1 overs together. That deceleration was critical to India being handed a chase that was steep but still gettable. Perry acknowledged it was vital to get the middle-order functioning effectively, in line with Australia’s plans first set down by Lanning and coach Matthew Mott ahead of the previous T20 World Cup in the Caribbean in 2018.
“Our eight batters all open for their BBL clubs, so it’s probably not unique to me; it’s relevant across the whole group,” Perry said. “Something we did about 18 months ago leading into the Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies was really nail down specific roles within our batting line-up. It’s lovely to have as much depth as we have in our batting line-up but with that comes having some clarity around how each of us should be playing and the strengths of each player.
“Particularly in that middle-order there’s a really clear understanding of what each of us needs to do and how we play those roles, so we really enjoy that challenge. When you walk out to open, it’s always the same situation, you face the first over, the first ball, it’s always the same, whereas in the middle-order you can come in early or could be coming in at the end and try to elevate the runs you’ve scored.
“It’s been a really nice challenge and something that all of us in the middle-order are quite flexible and adaptable with, and as a formula it’s worked for us in the last 18 months we’ve done it, too.”
Thinking keenly about the bigger picture is a part of what has made Perry such a formidable athlete and leader for the game in Australia, as befits a cricketer whose autobiography was titled “Perspective”. She said that the looming home World Cup would be key to her ultimate goal for women’s cricket, that it becomes a self-sustaining and profitable business – in terms of ticket sales and broadcast rights – for generations to come.
“The opportunities are massive. There’s a real appetite within the group to continue to grow the women’s game, on Australian shores but also abroad. So, this women’s World Cup is the first of those incredible opportunities and knowing that there’s a goal to fill the MCG for the final the team wants to be there, very much so, and that’s the challenge in front of us,” she said. “But going further forward it’s about continuing to develop things and to me the WBBL is the showpiece of women’s cricket in this country.
“I’d love to see it get to the point down the track that it’s elite, it supports itself, so the revenue we generate through ticket sales and broadcast deals and those kinds of things means it’s really standing on its own feet. That in my mind is really the Mecca of women’s cricket.
“There’s so much to work on, there’s plenty of opportunity there and, importantly, all the girls see that and really want to be a part of contributing to that, and whether that happens in the generation I play in or generations to come, it doesn’t really matter because I’ve contributed at some point or another. That’s been a true highlight and something I’ll always savour.”