The Women’s Big Bash League may be Australia’s domestic competition, but its impact has been felt in women’s cricket across the world. Not only has it invited the best overseas players to play big roles, but it has opened its doors to young players from Associate nations. Through the rookie placement programme in association with the International Cricket Council, promising talent from cricket-playing countries outside the Full Member nations have got a chance to interact with and learn from the best.
“The ICC rookie placement programme is in its second year,” said Holly Colvin, ICC women's cricket officer. “It’s about giving opportunities to Associate cricketers to train in the highest level, gain experience from world class coaches and world class players, absorb that knowledge and take it back with them into their own competitions. It’s been a really valuable scheme.”
In 2016-17, the programme involved asking 13 countries in ICC regional competitions – the Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Nepal, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Samoa, Japan and PNG – to nominate three players they believed would be best suited to benefit. ICC, through its discussions, brought that pool of 39 down to 15 and worked with the WBBL clubs, who got to choose their players.
A few of the rookies featured in the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017, where they had the chance to implement what they learnt in Australia. Here’s what some of they had to say.
Kathryn Bryce – Scotland and Melbourne Stars
“It was a fantastic experience, training with Melbourne Stars,” said Kathryn Bryce, the Scotland allrounder. The 19-year-old, who is pursuing sports science and honing her cricket at Loughborough University in England, said she enjoyed simply being in an environment of high-quality cricket.
“The main thing was just how the players thought about their game and what they were doing in training. Everything was really specific to what they wanted to achieve in the matches.” The two-week window didn’t give her too much time for specific skill development, but she got to “just talk about game plans, a few different ideas for bowling as well and holding balls slightly differently”.
Before the WBBL, earlier in 2016, she spent time with the Darren Lehmann academy, where she was the only girl. Her stints in Australia helped her get used to the heat, while also helping her deal with the challenges of travelling and playing in different conditions, she said.
Bryce’s work has earned her praise from Abbi Aitken, Scotland’s captain: “Kathryn is just a fantastic player. She’s just 19 years old and we rely on her going in at No.3 with the bat and opening the bowling. She’s also our best fielder. She’s the coolest head in the team. Seeing that composure in a 19-year-old is brilliant. She’s got a big big future ahead of her.”
Konio Oala – PNG and Sydney Thunder
The big-hitting Konio Oala is one of the best singers in the PNG team. When she was at WBBL with Sydney Thunder, she got some of her teammates to join in with her as well.
“It was good, I trained hard with the girls,” she said, remembering her time with the team. “I learnt from Alex Blackwell, Claire Coski and Joanne Broadbent (the coach). Joanne taught me how to bowl a bouncer. She said to grip across the seam for the bouncer.”
Oala was also thrilled to learning the sweep shot from Charlotte Edwards, whose helmet too she got to wear. And from her teammate Stafanie Taylor, she learnt to keep things simple: “She played straight, but the bad balls she hit.”
Ravini Oa – PNG and Adelaide Strikers
Ravini Oa, the PNG bowler, looks up to Australia stars Ellyse Perry and Lisa Sthalekar. They were her opponents during her time with the Strikers, but she got a chance to meet them and even train with Sthalekar for a day.
“It was good and fun, training with the Strikers girls,” she said. “On the bowling side, I learnt more swing in the bowling, and about slow balls.
“On the batting side, they taught me how to paddle shot and sweep shot. When I went out (during the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017), I used the paddle shot, but it popped up. It needs more practice!”
Kim Garth – Ireland and Sydney Sixers
Kim Garth, the Ireland all-rounder, began as a rookie, but filled in when South Africa’s Marizanne Kapp left for Bangladesh on national duty. She gave a good account of herself, and with a spot opening up with Ellyse Perry’s injury, was asked to stay on longer. Garth even went on to play a vital role in Sydney Sixers’ victorious final and was given the responsibility of bowling a Super Over on the way there.
“It was absolutely amazing. I went to Sydney on the rookie programme and I didn’t know I would be playing. I think they trusted me,” she said. “I was definitely surprised.”
This was Garth’s second year in a row on the programme – although, as vice-captain of the side and having featured on the big ICC World T20 stage, she was perhaps no longer a cricket ‘rookie’. She was well aware of what seeing her on the big stage meant for the game in Ireland: “To win Big Bash is such a great story to get more girls back home motivated to play cricket.”
Laura Delany – Ireland and Perth Scorchers (2015-16)
2016 was a big year for Laura Delany. It was when the 24-year-old was named Ireland captain after Isobel Joyce stepped down, and when ‘Dellers’, as she’s known, spent time improving her game in Australia.
She had been part of the rookie programme in its first 2015-16 edition. “It was a brilliant opportunity to get to go away and train with the best players and see how they go about their business,” she said. “It was definitely an eye opener. I was very jealous of the girls who got to go back this year, I’m not going to lie!”
Meeting Suzie Bates and Charlotte Edwards was the highlight for her. “That was brilliant. It was amazing just to pick her (Edwards’s) brain about certain things and listening to how she goes about setting fields.”