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CRICKET

ELLYSE PERRY

Ellyse Perry is the youngest ever cricketer, male or female, to have represented Australia. She’s one of very few Australians to have represented her country in two different sports, and the only person ever to have played for Australia in both cricket and football World Cups.

By Kevin Whitchurch

No wonder Cricket Australia, not short of high achievers to draw upon, called Perry 'arguably the best athlete in Australia'.

Her many accolades include being named the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year in both 2017 and 2019, winning the ICC Player of the Decade in 2020 and winning Australia's prestigious Women's International Cricketer of the Year (Belinda Clark Award) in 2016, 2018 and 2020. She is the very embodiment of What Greatness Looks Like.

Born on November 3, 1990, Perry grew up in an affluent suburb in northern Sydney, playing backyard cricket with her brother. “Mum and dad wanted to provide every opportunity they possibly could for us,” she says. “They taught us the value of working hard, but they never pushed us into anything. I felt like the decisions I made around what I was doing were always off my own bat.” 

Her mother Kathy is a doctor and a former swimmer. Her dad Mark played cricket for the University of Sydney and worked as one of Perry’s batting coaches, a role that has helped fashion one of the best techniques in the game. “She is a very classical player in both the batting and bowling departments and, a bit like her character, there is a feeling she came straight out of the factory production line of model professional athletes,” says Isabelle Westbury, former cricketer, and BBC commentator. 

Perry’s polished professional image hides a playful sense of humour, according to several former teammates, who recount tales of mischievous pranks and jokes on tours. “Ellyse was the youngest in the squad and was your annoying little sister,” says Lisa Sthalekar, a former Australia captain who coached Perry when she was a junior. “She was always pulling faces and throwing things while you were doing interviews – and giving you wedgies.”

She also became friends with her future Australian teammate, Alyssa Healy, at the age of nine. Perry and Healy played cricket together throughout childhood.

In 2007, at the age of 16, Perry made her way into the New South Wales U19 team and a month later she made the cut for the Australian youth team. She made her international debut against New Zealand in an ODI on July 22, 2007, to become the youngest Australian to play international cricket. Prior to her international debut, she had not played a single match at the senior level. During that time, Australia were looking for a replacement for fast bowler Cathryn Fitzpatrick, who retired in March 2007, and that was how Perry landed up being in the international squad. 

That August, she – at 16-years-and-nine-months-old, having made her international cricket debut less than two weeks earlier – made her international football debut and scored in the second minute of the match. Then, in 2008, a few months after her ODI debut, Perry made her T20I and Test debut. Not yet old enough to vote or legally drink, Perry was now an all-rounder in all three formats of the game. 

 

Now a seasoned pro, Perry looks out at Junction Oval in Melbourne.

 

Over her illustrious career that is spread across 15 years, Perry has shattered many records and achieved many milestones. She was the first player to amass a combined 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in T20Is. She also holds the record for the highest score by an Australian woman in Test matches (213 not out). Perry, a right-handed middle-order batter accomplished the feat on November 9, 2017 against England in the first-ever women's day/night Test, held at North Sydney Oval.

In the same year, she put together 199 runs with the aforementioned Alyssa Healy to register the highest partnership in domestic women’s T20. In October 2021, she became Australia’s most capped female cricketer. At present, she is the leading run-getter and wicket-taker in the Women’s Ashes. She has also been a part of seven World Cup titles, including two 50 over titles in 2013 and 2022 and five 20 over titles in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2020. Winning the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and Belinda Clark Award three times each for her stellar all-round performances in the process. 

Across all forms of international cricket, Perry has scored a total of 6,165 runs and taken 323 wickets during her 288-match career. In top-level domestic leagues, she has compiled 7,593 runs while claiming 230 wickets from 279 matches. 

Apart from being a talented all-rounder, Perry is strong. A testament of her mental strength is the 2013 World Cup final that Australia played against West Indies in Mumbai. The right-arm speedster was barely able to walk in that match. Despite the pain, she garnered enough courage and determination to play. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to make it through her delivery stride, she bowled her full allotment of ten overs and took three for 19 to help Australia win by 114 runs. 

The apparent pain through which Perry performed earned her the title of "Australia's limping hero” and garnered plaudits for showing unbreakable spirit through adversity. Days after winning her first 50-over world championship, Perry underwent surgery to repair a fractured ankle.

In domestic cricket too, Perry has had the most remarkable impact. Winning eleven WNCL championships with New South Wales, and two WBBL championships with the Sydney Sixers.

In football, Perry continued to play domestically until 2018. She says: "Essentially, both sports have grown so much and developed so much in the last couple of years that they really demand people to be full-time professional athletes... I ended up in cricket and haven't played any football recently. I truly enjoy my time playing both."

In an oddity reminiscent of Michael Jordan's propensity to wear college basketball shorts underneath his NBA uniform, Perry has invariably worn a pair of NSW Primary School Sports Association socks in top-level cricket matches throughout her career. 

She is also her own harshest critic, typically the first player to arrive at training and the last to leave. “It sounds weird but I actually enjoy training as much as I enjoy competing or playing matches,” she says. “For me the joy in doing something like this every day is a challenge and an opportunity to get better. And then when things go well it is an affirmation that, yes, I am doing something right.”
 

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