Former Australian tennis starlet Ashleigh Barty signs up for the Women's Big Bash League
Former Australian tennis starlet Ashleigh Barty has made her switch to cricket official after signing up for the inaugural edition of the Women’s Big Bash League to be held this summer, ESPNCricinfo reports. The 19-year-old has signed with Brisbane Heat and was thrilled at getting the opportunity to play in a team sport at the professional level.
Barty was considered one of the brightest prospects in Australian Women’s tennis after becoming a Wimbledon Junior champion at the age of 15 in 2011. She followed it up by reaching three senior grand slam doubles finals in 2013 with close friend Casey Dellacqua and earned her maiden entry in the senior singles event at a Grand Slam in 2014 after qualifying for the 2014 US Open.
However, she took the tennis world by surprise after announcing that she was taking an indefinite break from the game, just days after returning from the tournament.
It seems though tennis’ loss is cricket’s gain, at least for the time being, as Barty has made the decision to take up the sport professionally after being initially attracted to it by the team nature of the sport.
“It is tough when you're by yourself and I think that's why team sport is so appealing," Barty told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday. “There's never a lonesome moment on the [cricket] field if you're struggling. There are 10 other girls that can help you out and get you through the tough times."
Barty, however, added that her first love will always be tennis and that she will always remain attached to the sport.
"I'm still connected very much to tennis and everything it has to offer. It's been a part of me since I was four years old and is never going to leave me,” Barty said.
It was the time she spent with the Southern Stars team as part of their winter training programme that prompted Barty to approach Queensland Cricket for enquiring about a possibility of switching to cricket. She has been training with the Queensland Fire squad since July and if the words of the team’s coach are to be believed, Barty could well become a future Australian national team player.
"Her skill from the first time she picked up a bat was outstanding from a coach's perspective," coach Andy Richards said. "She never missed a ball in her first session. She's probably hit more balls than most of our cricket players coming through. It might not have been a cricket ball, but it's a ball at 120kph plus an hour. That's what attracted me as a coach to her as a player, her ability to pick up things really quickly."
She has made a bright start to her cricket career already having joined Western Suburbs in the Brisbane Women's Premier Cricket competition earlier this year. Last weekend she top scored in her first T20 game with an unbeaten knock of 63 from 60 balls and followed it up with figures of 2 for 13 from four overs – match figures that are ideal for T20 cricket.