Australia’s Lisa Sthalekar is one of three retired cricket greats to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame this year. The all-rounder joins the formidable Jacques Kallis of South Africa and Pakistan’s Zaheer Abbas as the 2020 inductees.
She is now the 27th Australian to achieve this honour.
“When I got the news, I thought it was a bit of a joke, really. I only retired seven years ago and there are many other players more deserving than me,” Sthalekar told Indian Link.
“I was fortunate enough to learn from the best when I entered the Australia team – Belinda Clark, Karen Rolton and Cathryn Fitzpatrick, all of whom have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and rightly so.”
It’s safe to say the news came as a pleasant surprise, and Sthalekar has been blown away by the love and good wishes pouring in on social media.
“It’s great to feel this support, especially during the isolation of the pandemic,” she said.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has also meant that the traditional induction ceremony hasn’t taken place this year. Instead, the announcement was made during a show live streamed on ICC’s social media.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing because I really wanted to share with moment with my father,” said Sthalekar. “It goes without saying that if it wasn’t for the support of my family, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have.”
The Pune-born cricketer credits her father for getting her involved with the game, having started playing cricket in the backyard at the age of five, and watching matches together at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
“My father, who has various degrees, did emphasise on studies, but also realised the importance of sport in the Australian culture,” she had shared with Indian Link in 2008, after being named the women’s international cricketer of the year for the second year in a row.
Sthalekar is now the ninth woman to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. Is this a sign that women’s cricket is finally getting due credit?
“The ICC Hall of Fame started in 2009 and every year, there’s usually one woman inducted. Women cricketers have made some valuable contributions to the game and it’s great to see them get credit and recognition on an international level,” she said.
Sthalekar also pointed out the success of the women’s T20 World Cup earlier this year where the finals between India and Australia at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground sold more than 85,000 tickets. It fell just short of the world record of attendance at any women’s sporting event.
“The ICC has been putting measures in place to assure an equal platform, such as the same number of cameras in both men’s and women’s games. There’s scope for more, though. Female players need opportunities to play. When they get chances to play domestic games, it helps foster talent and strengthen the national side,” Sthalekar explained.
There has also been a great deal of discussion around the date clash between the women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) and women’s IPL (WIPL) later this year. Cricketers like Alyssa Healy expressed their unhappiness on social media, although others like Mithali Raj deemed the overlap to be an inevitable part of the WIPL building process.
“The arrangement isn’t ideal, but the most important thing is that players get a chance to play,” Sthalekar said. “With this, Indian domestic players will get opportunities to play. The WIPL may not have as much international talent involved due to the date clash, but it’s important for Indian women cricketers.”
With a wave of support, and growing financial backing, for women’s cricket, what are the ways to encourage girls in India to get involved with the sport?
“I made some fantastic friendships through the game and developed important skill sets like decision-making and teamwork. The game really brings out the best in you, and these skills are transferable to other work as well. Moreover, being a successful cricket player has become financially viable. Top tier cricketers earn quite well. If the girls are good enough to compete at that level, they have the chance to earn well, especially with the development of the women’s IPL,” she signed off.