Interview with Lisa Carprini Sthalekar, one of the greatest woman cricketers of all time
An experienced campaigner of 187 international matches with an excess of 3500 runs and 229 wickets to her credit.
First woman cricketer to complete the unique double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in ODIs. Member of the Australian World Cup-winning team in 2005 and 2013 and two-time Australian International Woman Player of the Year. That is Laila or better known as Lisa Sthalekar for you.
However, many of us are oblivious to the fact that this Australian legend was born in the city of Pune (India).
Her biological parents, who were unable to support her, left her at an orphanage named Shreevatsa, attached to Pune's Sassoon Hospital.
She was then adopted by a bi-racial couple, Haren and Sue Sthalekar who after travelling around the world for their missionary work, eventually got settled in Sydney.
From there on, the Indian-born girl made the most of her journey from Pune orphanage to the beautiful city of Sydney and ultimately carved out a niche for herself in the gentleman's game.
After bidding adieu to international cricket in 2013, Sthalekar has now broken boldly into the territory of cricket commentary.
In an exclusive interview with SportsKeeda, the 38-year-old recalls back her journey as a cricketer, her experience in the commentary box and a lot more.
SportsKeeda (SK): I have heard that Tennis was your first love. So what drove you into cricket?
Lisa Sthalekar (LS): My father being Indian meant that cricket was in his blood. He loved watching the game and would take me outside in the backyard to play.
SK: How difficult was it breaking the stereotypes and pursuing something like cricket back then?
LS: Certainly there weren't many females playing the game of cricket in my local area, however, I always had the support of my family.
And once I realised that there were women's teams I didn't feel like I was the odd one out. We all would share stories that we faced every weekend when we would play with the boys and we would inspire each other.
SK: You came into the Australian side when it was full of big names like Cathryn Fitzpatrick, Karen Rolton, Belinda Clark and Michelle Goszko. So did you find it difficult to get inducted into the side as a youngster?
LS: Thankfully the Australian side at the time was made up of a number of New South Wales (NSW) players which I had already played with for a number of years.
Also, I was part of the Australian squad for a number of years before I made my debut, so they weren't the strangers.
Though it did take time for me to settle at the next level and feel that I was contributing to the team's success.
SK: You were very successful as a skipper of New South Wales. However, apart from the three ODIs you never really got an opportunity to lead the national side. Is that something which you still regret?
LS: I certainly loved captaining my state and when Karen Rolton was injured I got a chance to lead my country which was extremely special.
Ideally, I would have loved more opportunities to captain, but over time I realised you could still be a leader within the side without the C next to your name.
SK: In your book 'Shaker' which traces your journey from Pune to Australia, you have written quite openly about a lot of things, including depression. How tough was that?
LS: Of course, it is hard sharing extremely personal parts of your life. Though I guess if others were to read and felt something similar at least they would know they aren't alone. Also, some of the lessons I learnt might be useful to those going through something similar.
SK: You had once said that in women’s cricket when you miss-hit you usually get out. However, in men’s cricket, the ball might still cross the boundary line. Has your view changed over the years?
LS: The women's game has certainly come a long way and even by the end of my career the time and effort that I spent in the gym helped me to gain more power.
Now in the women's game, they are hitting more and more sixes, which is exciting to watch.
SK: At this point in time, who according to you is the cleanest and the biggest hitter of the cricket ball in women's cricket?
LS: At this point, from ball 1 it has to be Alyssa Healy. I have seen her a number of times hitting a 6 on the first delivery that she faces.
SK: Talking about your second innings, how did commentary happen to you? Can you recall back your first experience behind the mic?
LS: My first opportunity in the commentary box was 5 overs long and I sat between Tony Grieg and Mark Nicholas. It was so exciting and fuelled my desire to one day call it my profession.
SK: Commentary from a distance might seem like an easy job to many. However, it surely isn't the case. What are the challenges which this field offers?
LS: You have limited time to get across what you are trying to say and you always need to keep adding to the pictures that the viewers are seeing.
There is a fair amount of work that I do to ensure that I am across all the players on the field, whether it be recent performances, key match-ups and interesting stories about the person instead of just the cricketer.
SK: Even though there has been a huge transformation in the overall perception of women's cricket over the last few years, there are still quite a few loopholes. So what else can be done to improve the scenario?
LS: It would be great in the near future that stadiums are full of supporters of the women's game and the interest level is high, meaning that print, digital and TV are all waiting for more and more women's cricket content.
SK: Do you think the idea of a women's IPL can materialise right now or before that India needs to have a better domestic structure in practice?
LS: If there was to be a women's IPL that followed the same format that is currently in place for the men's game then yes a better structure in Indian domestic cricket would be required.
However, if BCCI really wants to hold a women's IPL, they could allow more International players to take part in each team and have less number of teams. Eventually, it would be just as exciting.
SK: Now that a few Australian cricketers have been banned for ball tampering. It seems quite a harsh punishment. Do you think it was given just taking this incident into consideration? Or it was the lead-up of all ill-tempered incidents in the series that made this incident look all the more horrible and culpable?
LS: Cricket Australia decided to punish the players under the Code of Conduct which all Australian players must sign.
Therefore it takes into consideration a number of other factors other than just the incident on its own. For instance, if the behaviour has caused damage to the reputation of the game. This has occurred as the major Test sponsor has pulled out of their 5-year deal.
SK: Taking into account, the quality of cricket which was on display in the World Cup Qualifiers, how far is the 10 teams World Cup justified?
LS: I can't really make comment on that, as I hadn't watched the previous World Cup Qualifiers. It was difficult to watch when teams lost as you could see the pain of not being part of next years World Cup.
There have also been serious repercussions for players, coaching staff and financial gain for national boards. I am sure that ICC will take a closer look at the number of teams after the next World Cup.
SK: Your message for young girls who want to take up the game?
LS: This game has taught me so much, but more importantly has allowed me to have a number of friends across the globe.
When you do take it up, practice makes you perfect and remember to keep at it.