Former Southern Star’s player, Lisa Sthalekar was always trying to be one of the boys on the field.
“At first it was daunting, I didn’t want the opposition to know (that) I was a girl so I used to tuck my hair under my hat, wear pants and keep my head down,” she told The Newsroom.
But despite the challenges, she has made tremendous strides on the field and received numerous accolades for her contributions to women’s sport.
The 35-year-old cricketer turned-commentator went on to play at an elite level for over a decade. A career spanning from 1997 to 2013, she was twice named the Australian International Woman Cricketer of the Year.In the international cricketing society, Sthalekar was the first female to score 1000 runs and take 100 wickets.
“Growing up I didn’t know that girls cricket actually existed, then I realised it and managed to kind of forge my way through the womens’ side,” she added.
She then added author to her array of titles. Her autobiography Shaker, Run Maker, Wicket Taker delves into her period of suffering from depression as well as her early childhood.
Sthalekar was adopted three weeks after her birth in a small town in India by an interracial couple with a passion for cricket.
“My father was born in India, he didn’t have a son and he loved playing cricket, he used to take me out in the backyard. I was daddy’s little girl so I just followed in my father’s footsteps.”
Sthakelar started playing for her local club, an all-boys squad, but despite facing the gender adversities, she went on to play for the women’s NSW Lend Lease Breakers team.
“My father said girls don’t play cricket so I said, ‘Dad, ask the local club’ and he did,” she recalled.
“I remember turning up to my first net session; I was so nervous. You want to impress the boys and you want to do really well.”
She went from a small town girl to one of the most renowned female cricket players in the world.
“I was always going to be facing an uphill battle in the sense that it was a male-dominated sport. I enjoyed that, I loved the thrill of making my mark.”
Sthalekar hung up her bat and ball for good after the 2013 Cricket World Cup. With her time on the field laid to rest, she began her next journey.
Since retiring in 2013, she has worked for Cricket NSW as a part of the Youth Training Program and is a strong role model for any aspiring female athletes.
A fulfilling life of playing on the pitch, she turned her focus onto commentating. She was one of the first of four women to commentate on the Men’s Indian Premier League (IPL).
“You don’t need to explain it to the experts, you may be explaining it to a new audience. That’s the value you can have being a female commentator, you might explain things a bit differently.”
Unlike other female athletes, Sthakelar has a different perspective on the discrepancies in salaries between male and female sports players.
“Will it ever be the same, I don’t think so and I don’t think it should, simply because the guys are away 11 months of the year. If you ask the female cricketers I don’t think they’ll want to do that,” she said.
She continued by acknowledging that female athletes do need to be financially remunerated compared to her generation.
“They need to be financially compensated so that they can pay mortgage, bills and they don’t need to do a job as well as train as well as probably study. I was part of a generation that didn’t get paid to play.” — Video and article by Ra’Eesah Lillah
Top photo of Lisa Sthalekar from Clive Flint’s Flickr Photostream.