This year, the group is feeling more at ease: Perry Ellyse

Despite being on the losing side of Ellyse Perry’s bowling wrath both times, five years apart, Charlotte Edwards is unafraid to call the Australian the best female cricketer she has ever laid eyes on. Six-time T20 World Cup champion, twice a member of the Australian side that won the ODI World Cup, first-ever gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games, three-time winner of the Belinda Clark medal and the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Award, and ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Decade (2011–2020) – Perry’s trophy cabinet contains more cutlery than a foundry. As recently as 2022, she was ranked #1 in bowling, batting, and all-arounders on different occasions.

Perry, who is the epitome of a team player, nevertheless, believes that being a part of the period when women’s cricket has gained popularity has been more fulfilling than any of her individual accomplishments. In a media interview, an almost contrite Perry responded, “Neither of it is particularly relevant to me,” when asked which of her career high points she had personally liked. To be honest, I’ve never really thought of it that way. The thing I have loved the most, without a doubt, is the team’s victory in different contests.

It’s also absolutely mind-boggling to me that I’m sitting here with the WPL in its second year, touching crowds of well over 20,000–30,000 people, as a member of women’s cricket in a time when the sport has simply skyrocketed. Therefore, when compared to team experiences when you are successful and you learn a lot about yourself and each other, rankings, individual success, or performances are so ephemeral and, in some ways, so unsatisfying.

“For me, more so than anything, it’s just having the chance to be a part of this.”

In front of more than 23,000 spectators over the week at Delhi’s Feroze Shah Kotla ground, Perry delivered a masterpiece in inswing bowling, reaching yet another career high with her first-ever six-for in Twenty20 cricket—also the first in the Women’s Premier League. Mumbai Indians’ renowned batting lineup was broken by Perry’s ruthless 6-15, which forced them to settle for a meagre 113 runs.

“I had some ice cream and a chocolate brownie with the girls last night. Following the festivities, Perry remarked, “I went to my room, put on my red light glasses, and read a few chapters of a book before falling asleep.” But the thirty-three-year-old, who is normally modest, quickly changed her focus.

“When things go well, it’s tempting to get extremely carried away. However, it seems to me that you frequently have very little control over whether or not things work out. You invest a lot of effort into positioning yourself well, but there are a lot of other things that affect every game, including the result.

“I don’t really want to react in any way, whether it’s a good night or a poor night, especially as I’ve gotten older. The following day, the sun rises. Luckily, there are always more chances to play games fast in this competition. We are extremely fortunate to be in the centre of this absurdly large and fervently enthusiastic crowd, regardless of how well it goes. It’s not at all like it was a few years ago when I started playing. Really, hardly many people attended our games, and there was definitely no enthusiasm in the sport as there is now. Other than the effort you have put in, when things go smoothly, you don’t feel like you have much influence over them. When it’s here, it’s simple to kind of just savour the moment because life moves on swiftly.”

Perry had bowled just six overs for 51 runs in four innings in the WPL 2024 prior to that record performance. The Australian, nevertheless, emphasised that her preparation and pre-match rituals guarantee she’s covered all the bases and will be ready to bowl if and when the occasion presents itself.

Since I’ve been playing for a while, I think I have a good idea of how to get ready. Before a game, there’s always time to warm up by bowling overs out in the middle. I do so with the understanding that you are free to play bowling if the chance arises. That’s all you really need to do if it turns out to be bowling—always feeling that way. I don’t feel like I am lacking in cricket or overs because I have been playing consistently for the past 18 months. Being prepared for opportunities to contribute to the team is important. In the months before to it, we work very hard.

Perry’s bowling workloads have decreased over the past three years, even on an international level, in part because every Australian XI has a surplus of bowling resources. Alyssa Healy, the new captain of Australia, was reminded to use her bowling services more frequently, particularly in the shortest format, by the six-fer. Prior to their World Cup title defence in both forms under subcontinental conditions—the 2024 T20 World Cup is scheduled for Bangladesh in September and October, while the 50-overs version would take place in India the following year—Perry insisted that the statement was not a declaration.

Perry declared, “I don’t think there is a case for anything.” “Over the years, I have participated in a lot of cricket matches. We have been really fortunate in the Australian team to have a lot of choices if the game goes as planned. There are numerous bowling alternatives available here with RCB. In my opinion, striving to improve is what I like doing the most as a player and what keeps me inspired to work more. I’ve been working on that for the past few players, and I think some small things have given me more confidence that I can occasionally contribute when needed. However, it doesn’t really matter either way. I simply like being a member of a team where everyone is pursuing the same objective.”

In addition to his outstanding play with the ball, Perry led the RCB’s chase of the reigning champs with his bat as well. Following three cheap wicket losses, Perry steadied the ship in an uninterrupted 76-run partnership with Richa Ghosh, scoring 40* to secure RCB’s first-ever playoff berth following a turbulent first season. Perry said that the team’s improved bonding both on and off the pitch as a result of spending more time together as a unit at RCB is evident in the outcomes.

“Well, to be honest, I don’t think there’s a big difference. We have only been in the competition for a year. The group has spent more time together as a whole. It took us a while to get settled last year. In franchise cricket, there’s never too much of a difference between winning and losing teams. However, I believe that the gang is more at ease this year than last. We have all gained a deeper understanding of each other’s roles and have become closer both on and off the pitch. Thus, the simple pleasure of having a little extra time together has had an impact.

“Smriti has done a fantastic job leading the group. She has an extremely introverted nature. She places a lot of emphasis on getting to know each player and ensuring that she understands not just that we are here to help her but also that she has been able to build a relationship with us. Although it takes time, there are a lot of benefits. It’s fantastic that we can support and know each other when we take the pitch.”

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