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Indian-origin cricketer Alana King: Shane Warne inspired me

For Alana, whose parents hail from Chennai, to play in India has been a long-time dream: it was fulfilled this year.

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26-year-old Australian leg spinner Alana King is in the midst of perhaps the most successful year in professional cricket history. Since playing a critical role in guiding the Perth Scorchers to their maiden WBBL title last season, King has racked up a stunning catalogue of achievements across top-flight international and domestic cricket tournaments, most recently winning the Women’s T20 Challenge in India with the IPL Supernovas. It marks somewhat of a full-circle moment for King, whose parents hail from Chennai, and who has long wanted to experience playing cricket in India, as she tells Indian Link.

“I’ve been to India a few times with mum and dad, because we have plenty of family and friends over there,” says King. “I loved the whole experience of playing there for the first time.”

She laughs, ‘‘It’s funny how things get done in India – everything always just falls into place, even though sometimes it’s a bit chaotic. I figured that out pretty quickly.”

That was one of many valuable lessons in India for King, who reveled in the veritable library of knowledge at the Supernovas.

“I like learning off different players,” she says. “I asked Soph [Ecclestone], the number one WT20I bowler, on what she thinks about bowling to different batters and at different stages of the game. I also asked Harmanpreet [Kaur] about the ground we were playing at in Pune, and she looked at me and laughed and said, ‘It’s a batting paradise, but don’t worry you’ll be okay!’”

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Alana King Australia v England: Ashes Series - T20 Game 1
Alana King celebrates the wicket of Tammy Beaumont of England during the First T20 International Match in the Ashes Series between Australia and England at Adelaide Oval on January 20, 2022 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo: Mark Brake/Getty Images/Cricket Australia)

Like many, Indian culture is engrained in King through two avenues: food and family. “Dad was a chef in India while he was there, so my brother and I got exposed to a lot of South Indian food – and I know I’m biased, but dad makes the best Indian food,” she says adamantly. “I also love how family-oriented we are – even if it’s just a birthday, there’s no less than 30 people coming over. That’s what I love and have always known – you can rock up to any uncle or aunty’s house at any time, and you won’t go hungry. As kids, we were always spoiled by extended family and to this day, when I go back to Melbourne, my aunties and uncles spoil me because I am not home much anymore.”

It’s an understatement that King’s time away has been well-spent: earlier this year, King earned her maiden T20I, ODI and Test caps, during a frenetic two-month period in which the dominant Australians won the Women’s Ashes and the ICC Women’s World Cup. King has featured in each of the Australian team’s matches across all formats during her debut, in itself no mean feat, let alone the quality of her on-field performances. It’s more than most can expect in an entire career, and while the magnitude of her achievements is not lost on her, King’s focus remains on what lies ahead.

alana king Aus v eng
Alana King dismissing England’s Lauren Winfield-Hill, One-Day international in Melbourne, February 6, 2022. (Photo: William West/AFP via Getty Images/Cricket Australia)

READ ALSO: Mithali Raj, pioneer of women’s cricket, bids adieu to international career

“I’ve loved every minute,” she says of her year. “It’s pretty hard to digest and reflect on what’s happened. When I got back home to Melbourne [after winning the World Cup], it was nice to be with the family and reflect on what’s happened. But it wasn’t that long after that that I was on a plane to India [to play in the Women’s T20 Challenge]. I’ve been in a bit of awe as to what’s been happening, but hopefully as a group we can take this success forward in the next 12 months.”

Naturally, the year has not been without its challenges, including the sudden death of idol Shane Warne, a loss which hit heavier for King than for most. “He was the front and centre on my screen when I was growing up, and I also got to see him live a few times at the MCG. He was a big inspiration to me in why I picked up leg-spin. He seemed to have a lot of fun bowling leg-spin – he made batters look silly a lot of the time, and he made it look easy, so I thought to myself, ‘Why not?’”, recalls King.

“I didn’t realise at the time just how hard it was, but I had a couple of sessions with him as a youngster at a clinic, and his words to me still echo to this day: “Just give it a rip”, so that’s what I’ve taken from him,” she reveals. “He’ll always inspire people to pick up the great art of leg spin – his legacy will live on.”

Alana King Aus V Eng
Ashes series 2022: Canberra Test (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images/Cricket Australia)

Looking ahead, King is heartened by the talent of domestic cricketers in India, and the prospect of a women’s IPL next year. “Every country needs to invest in their domestic systems – that will really help with the standard of world cricket,” she says. At the same time, King notes, “You’ll never get tired of winning. I know [the Australian cricket team] will always want to win, at every opportunity we get.”

It’s a seemingly innocuous comment, but it reveals within King’s down-to-earth exterior the same innate hunger for success and dominance that underpinned some of the great teams, including the West Indies in the 1970s and 1980s and the Australians in the 1990s and 2000s.

And given India’s eternal love for great Australian cricketers, there’s no doubt that over the years, King will get her wish: to visit India again, dive deeper into the culture, and win plenty of cricket matches along the way.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL with Alana King

  1. Who has the most iconic eyewear in the men’s game?

Chris Gayle

  1. Favourite form of the game?

All of them!

  1. Who do you wish could commentate your first international hat trick?

Shane Warne or Mel Jones

  1. What’s your guilty snack?

Ice cream and cookies

  1. How would you sum up India in one word?

Exotic

READ ALSO: Rajeev Balakrishnan, former Indian Olympian, now an Aussie athletics coach

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Ritam Mitra
Ritam Mitra
Ritam is an award-winning journalist and lawyer based in Sydney. Ritam writes on domestic and global politics, human rights and social justice, and sport.

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