Lisa Sthalekar's ground-breaking achievements on the field aside, she has been an ambassador for women's cricket.
Lisa Sthalekar was the No.1 women's all-rounder when the ICC rankings were introduced in 2008. She retired as the No.1 all-rounder and bowler in T20Is and the No.2 all-rounder and bowler in ODIs. She was involved in four successful women's World Cup campaigns, two each in ODIs and T20Is.
However, more than these numbers, Sthalekar's career will be defined by her influence on the women's game and her ability to rise up from adversity. Her journey from an orphanage in Pune to captaining the Australian women's cricket team, and continuing to blaze a trail after retirement, has been an inspirational one.
Sthalekar played 125 ODIs – by the time she retired, only Karen Rolton had featured in more matches in the format – along with eight Tests and 54 T20Is. She led in three ODIs.
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In her second Test match in Sydney in 2003, she made an unbeaten 120, batting out 329 balls. Five years later, she came close to getting another Test ton, also against England, but fell on 98. Her maiden ODI century came against Ireland, in 2005.
Along with the World Cup that year, she carried her form into a stupendous international season with the bat in 2006/07. In that season, she scored 604 runs in ODIs at 67.11, with six half-centuries. She finished 2008 with a batting average of 45.8 and a bowling average of 26.47. Those performances earned her the Belinda Clark Award in 2007 and 2008.
She marked her 100th game with career-best ODI figures of 5/35. Sthalekar retired as the 10th highest run-scorer in women's ODIs and Australia's third-highest. Her ODI wicket tally of 146 wickets was the third-highest at the time, and the best for a spinner; she is still within the top 10.
An off-spin bowler and a right-handed batter, Sthalekar was the first female cricketer to make the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in women's ODIs.
She's one of only two bowlers, apart from Ellyse Perry, to have both a century and a five-wicket haul in both Tests and ODIs.
"She is the most valuable player in our team, if you want to put such tag," Perry once said of her, insisting she was the "best" all-rounder in the world. "I really look up to her."
World Cup legacy
Sthalekar has four World Cup winners medals in her cabinet: She was part of the victorious Australian sides in the 50-over World Cups in 2005 and 2013, and the 20-over tournaments in 2010 and 2012.
She was the second-highest scorer in the 2005 final, giving Rolton the support she needed after the team were 71/3. The duo were positive against a strong Indian attack, adding 139 for the fourth wicket – one of their five century stands in the format. She won her first World Cup with the Australian team in 2005, making a half-century in the finals against India.
In the 2009 World Cup in Australia, Sthalekar was her team's leading wicket-taker with 13 wickets at an average of 15.69.
The 2013 World Cup in India, fittingly, marked her final bow. In the final against West Indies in Mumbai, roughly 150km from the place where she spent her early years, Sthalekar picked up the big wickets of Merissa Aguilleira, the opposition skipper, and Deandra Dottin, before sealing the title win for Australia with a spectacular diving catch.
A leader, on and off the field
Sthalekar had natural leadership qualities, as reflected in her leading New South Wales to five successive Women's National Cricket League (WNCL) titles starting 2005/06. Even though she was Australia skipper in only three games, the last few years of her career established the transformation of Sthalekar from a compelling all-rounder to a spokesperson for the game itself.
While playing, she had already begun on a path to be involved with the game after retirement. She became the first woman to be appointed to the Australian Cricketers' Association Executive in 2011. In 2015, she became one of the four female commentators in the Indian Premier League.
Julie Savage, chief women's selector of the Australia women's team at the time of her retirement, had hailed Sthalekar's contributions towards the overall development of the game: "Lisa has been a tremendous player for Australia for a number of years and it's fantastic to see her go out at the top of her game. She also, through her coaching, contributed to the development of the younger players that are now coming through in our group."
Having overseen the development of players such as Perry and Alyssa Healy in a youth programme manager role in Cricket New South Wales, and come out of retirement to feature in the Women's Big Bash League when it began, Sthalekar has been an influential factor behind the success of the current Australian women's team too.
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