Lisa Sthalekar - An Indian born Australian's success story
There are some famous cricketers who were born in one country and went on to represent another. South African born Kevin Pietersen played for England. England's ODI skipper Eoin Morgan was born in Ireland. Grant Elliot, who guided the Kiwis to their first ever world cup final, came to New Zealand from South Africa for more opportunities. But have you ever heard about Lisa Sthalekar who was born in India, but played for Australia?
Sthalekar was one of the best all-rounders in Women's cricket. She was a hard hitting batsman and an off spin bowler. She averages 30+ with the bat in both Tests and ODIs. Her bowling average in Tests is an impressive 20.97 and in ODIs she averages 24.97.
Sthalekar's journey to success wasn't easy. She was left by her parents soon after her birth and was in an orphanage in Pune. Haren and Syu Sthalekar visited the orphanage to adopt a baby boy, but once Mrs. Sthalekar saw Lisa, she fell in love with the girl. After that, they moved to the US, then Kenya and finally to Australia.
She was lucky enough to get a supportive family. Her father had a real passion for the game. He started playing with Sthalekar when she was only five years old. He made sure that she was coached properly even from her younger age. She went on to play with the boys then, but she didn't want them to know that she was a girl. So, she used to wear a hat even when she was bowling.
She describes about this in her autobiography Shaker "Back then, I wore a cap instead of a helmet, whilst batting. It proved to be a great disguise, but I didn’t realize how good it was, until one day when I was running between wickets. Being the 'Speedy Gonzales' that I am, my hat fell off and as it fell to the ground my large ponytail was exposed. With that, one of the boys shouted out "hey, that bloke’s a girl!"
National call up and injury
Playing in the Ashes is a dream of every Australian cricketer. Sthalekar was named in the national team for the 2001 Ashes. But unfortunately she couldn't make it to the playing eleven because of an ankle injury. That was a painful moment, she was down and out physically and mentally.
She made her ODI debut later in the same year against England in Derby only to be dropped after two matches. Though, she was tasting success at the international level, she had to overcome some personal struggles. Her mother died due to cancer in 2002.
She wanted to become a successful cricketer in all aspects of the game and hence had a strong desire. Once she said "I don't do things for fun, I do things so that I can win". Her hard work had paid off in the 2003 Ashes, as she made it to the Test team.
Rise to stardom
She was a key member of the Australian team that won the World Cup in 2005. Australia and India were the two finalists. Aussies won the toss and elected to bat. When Sthalekar joined the crease with KL Rolton, they were reduced to 71-3 in the 25th over. Both the batsmen played cautiously and helped the Kangaroos to post a decent total of 215. Sthalekar was dismissed in the 50th over for 55, while Rolton remained unbeaten on 107.
She then bowled 4 tidy overs and took a wicket during India’s run-chase. Her all round perfomance in the game ensured that an Aussie win.
Australia and India then played a one-off Test match in 2006. She was sublime with both bat and ball in that game too. She scored 72 runs and bagged 5 wickets. She continued to impress whenever she got an opportunity. The four nation series in India was one of the bright spots in her career as a batsman where she scored 394 runs at a whopping average of 98.50.
Her best bowling performance came in the 2009 World Cup. Though, Australia couldn't go past the Super 6 stage, Sthalekar stood tall with her brilliance with the ball. She picked up 13 wickets at an average of 15.69 and with an economy rate of 3.45.
Awards and honours
She was named the Australian cricketer of the year consecutively in 2007 and 2008. When the ICC began having a women's ranking system in the year 2008, Sthalekar was right on the top of the allrounder rankings. She also holds a special record in ODIs as she became the first women to score 1000 runs and pick 100 wickets in the format. She captained New South Wales and led the team to several Women's National Cricket League(WNCL) championships.
Retirement after world cup triumph 2013
Sthalekar hanged up her boots after winning the World Cup in 2013. She was in prime form, but she wanted to retire when she was on top of her game. She scored 128 runs and took 9 wickets with an impressive average of 20.33 in the tournament.
She currently works as a commentator (as seen in the IPL in this year) and a writer. She was an inspiration for her fellow cricketers and surely her journey to success will inspire a lot of young girls who are willing to take up the sport in future.