Lisa Sthalekar, Australian cricketer of Indian origin, is currently one of the best all-rounders in the game. Apart from being a key member of the Southern Stars’ side, Lisa is one of the most popular faces in Australian cricket.
An orphan adopted by Indian parents living abroad, Lisa has penned an interesting life story in her book ‘Shaker’ which talks about her life, her early years in India, connection to the Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar clan and much more.
In an exclusive interview with CricketCountry’s Aayush Puthran, Lisa talks about women’s cricket, her Indian connection, the Sachin Tendulkar phenomenon in Australia and lots more.
Excerpts from an interview:
CricketCountry (CC): How does it feel coming back to India? Lisa Sthalekar (LS): Really good. I always enjoy coming to India. We were here last March. I have lots of fond memories, especially of Mumbai. I used to come here when I was young.
CC: You have penned an interesting life story, from flying kites to eating paan by the roadside in Pune. What’s your fondest memory? LS: It has to be with my grandmother in the school with the house on the top-floor. It was a four or five-bedroom house, and then there was a school below that. I used to run amuck when the school was going on. She was the headmistress. It was in my school holidays when I would come over to India. I used to enjoy a lot and have fun with my grandmother.
CC: You have often acknowledged the fact that your father had a major role to play in you taking up cricket. LS: Yes, he was the key. He took me outside, introduced me to the game, took me to SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground). Obviously he had real passion for the game, as most Indians do. But he realised his shortcomings. He wasn’t a good cricketer himself. But he ensured that I got the best coaching at a very young age and provided me with all the help that I needed. He and my mother were very supportive of the choice that I made.
CC: You rooted for Michael Slater and Adam Gilchrist when you were young. Were they in any way responsible to attract you towards the game? LS: No, I have never had a hero as such who has inspired me to play the game. I have always enjoyed watching certain players. I enjoyed how they (Gilchrist and Slater) batted and how they approached the game. When these two players batted in Test matches or One-Day International (ODIs), I would stop what I was doing and watch the match. It is similar to what people do in India when Sachin (Tendulkar) comes to bat. It is not just here, anywhere around the world when Sachin is batting, people stop to watch him play.
CC: Talking about Sachin, can you tell us something more about the Sachin Tendulkar phenomenon in Australia? LS: I think the phenomenon is there all around the world — probably not to the same extent as it is in India. But, he is a man who has broken all the records. The way he has adapted his game to the changing times of cricket is wonderful to watch. I have had the opportunity to meet him a couple of times. Those moments were really special. He is much loved in Australia. (In 2012) We were hoping that he got his 100th hundred in the 100th Test match at the SCG, which would have been perfect from our point of view. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. There is much love for him in our country.
CC: Are there Sachin Tendulkar fan clubs in Australia? LS: I’m sure there would be, although I don’t know of any.
CC: You had once said that in women’s cricket when you miss-hit you get out, unlike in men’s cricket the ball does not go for six or four. Has your view changed after looking at the likes of Deandra Dottin and Harmanpreet Kaur? LS: The game has definitely changed. The girls are getting a lot stronger. Now that we are integrated with national bodies, it gives the players the opportunity to access better coaching staff, better strengthening conditioners. Players now have small contracts or full-time contracts, depending on which country they are in, which gives more attention to the game. Not just training, but also other aspects of making them a better cricketer like nutrition, strength and conditioning. We have seen that work. Deandra Dottin has to be the cleanest and the biggest hitter I have seen in the women’s game. But now there are 20-30 players who can clear the boundary regularly. The scores are reaching 250-260 regularly, which is a good thing. That also means the game is going in the right direction. It is important to keep promoting the game and that is what we are here to do.
CC: If we compare men’s and women’s game, it is easy to spot differences at multiple levels. If you could change one thing about women’s cricket, what would that be? LS: The only thing I want to see is that the general population gets to see what I see — the game is exciting, there is a following and there is an opportunity for the girls to be seen on television. It is great that Star Cricket has been putting the matches on television. There have been close encounters and some exciting matches as well. It is a good advertisement for women’s cricket. I would just want to see women’s cricket grow and be more popular.
CC: Would you want to have a T20 league like the IPL or the Big Bash? LS: If we were to get to the top 60 odd players, it would be really exciting. Obviously that is something that needs to happen in the future.
CC: You have played across the world. Which is your favourite venue? LS: I have got special memories for a lot of venues. Playing in South Africa in my first World Cup and winning it there makes it special for me. Especially the players I was playing with, Belinda Clark and other top stars, those girls were the best in the world. We may not see them again. Obviously India, I have enjoyed playing here in Mumbai. I also enjoyed going to the West Indies for the 2010 World Cup. In England and New Zealand a lot of the conditions are pretty similar to that at home. So I enjoy countries and locations that are completely different from what I’m used to.
CC: You have said that English was never your favourite subject. However, after having written an autobiography, do you plan to take up writing seriously? LS: English was never my favourite subject in school, which is why it is quite funny that I have written a book! I’m sure if my English teachers know that I have written a book they would go ‘I didn’t think that would’ve happened for Lisa’. I’ve enjoyed writing the book, I’ve enjoyed writing blogs. Writing is something I would like to do more often.
CC: Do you plan to become a cricket writer post-retirement? LS: I have obviously got certain views and opinions. Whether they are right or wrong is up to the reader, but I have enjoyed writing since slowly getting the book writing or the blog. It is certainly something that I would like to do. Whether I write a lot or sporadically that is up to the viewers and readers and publishers and people like that.
CC: Australia and England were the favourites to make it to the final of the 2013 Women’s World Cup. Were you surprised to see West Indies as one of the finalists? LS: I’m surprised with the performance of a lot of countries participating in the tournament. Sri Lanka knocking out India and progressing to the Super Sixes was a surprise. The great thing about the World Cup is that it is not just the top four teams, but the top eight. On your day, you if don’t play well, you will end up losing like we did yesterday. You won’t win cricket just because you have been one of the top teams since women cricket has been played. The West Indies have been better suited for the shorter format. However they have shown it in the tournament that they have the depth that can play well and compete in the 50-over format. So come Sunday we need to make sure that we are firing on all cylinders to lift the trophy.
CC: You are currently the best all-rounder in women’s cricket. What do you enjoy more – batting or bowling? LS: One of the things I realised early in my career is that I wanted to be involved in every aspect of the game so I became an all-rounder and put myself at key position in the field. I like to be involved in the game all the time so that I can contribute at all times.
I have always enjoyed batting more. If I have scored runs and played a really good game it is because I have batted well. Off-spin bowling was just to keep me occupied. It then allowed me to get into the senior team of New South Wales and Australia. It then helped me move up the order. Bowling has been a key part in me being successful. But I have always seen myself as a batter. A batting all-rounder not a bowling all-rounder.
CC: How do you treat yourself after a good match? LS: I would rather have an ice-cream than getting drunk. If I have done well I would rather have an ice-cream or a desert or something like that.
CC: Australia has found a young sensation in the fast bowling department in the form of Holly Ferling… LS: Holly has been around for some time. But she has probably developed a lot last season. With all bowlers coming in initially, there is always something different that people haven’t seen before. She is still really young and roaring. I think she has a wonderful career ahead. She will have some tough times in the future. But as of now, she is loving every minute of it.
(While enjoying the small joys of life, rarely has anything mesmerised Aayush Puthran more than cricket. A student of Journalism in Mumbai, he is trying to figure out two things: ways to make Test cricket a commercial hot property and the best way to beat Mumbai traffic. He has a certain sense of obsession with novelty. He might seem confused, but he is just battling a thousand demons within his mind. Nonetheless, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of coffee!)