Cricket Australia Items/news/2013/2/20/sthalekar-leaves-on-a-high

Sthalekar leaves on a high

UPDATED 31 July, 2014 9:39AM AEST | by Chloe Saltau 4

In her first World Cup campaign, eight years ago, Lisa Sthalekar was a rising all-rounder in an established team that was captained by Belinda Clark and powered by Karen Rolton.

In her last, she was the veteran of an emergent team blessed with a new generation of stars such as Jess Cameron and Ellyse Perry.

More than any of her teammates, Sthalekar represented two successful eras of Australian women's cricket.

There were tough times in between, both on a personal level and for the team, but she endured them to become the first, and at the moment of her retirement, the only female cricketer to make 1000 runs and take 100 wickets in one-day internationals.

Among Australians, only Clark and Rolton have made more runs than Sthalekar's 2728 in one-dayers.

Only current coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick and Indian pacer Jhulan Goswami have taken more ODI wickets than the 146 Sthalekar snared with her hard-to-hit off breaks.

By those measures, Sthalekar retires as the most successful all-rounder in women's cricket.

As compelling as the numbers are, they do not tell the whole story of Sthalekar's career, which began in the aftermath of Australia's 2000 World Cup defeat to New Zealand.

Born in India but raised and coached in Australia, she was a stylish batter with supple wrists that allowed her to work the ball to parts of the ground others could not.

In the 2005 World Cup final, she played a quiet but important part in a match-winning parternship with Rolton, who blasted 107 not out while Sthalekar crafted a classy 55.

Slight and athletic, Sthalekar didn't have Rolton's muscle, but she found a way to prosper as the Twenty20 format grew in importance for the women's game and a new breed of batters, with the strength and confidence to hit over the top and down the ground, emerged.

"She was always quite clever with her skills and as the game has become more powerful, she has become cleverer," said Clark, Sthalekar's first captain with NSW and Australia.

"She led the wave of young players coming into the national team and her performances, remarkably, have been pretty consistent over two distinct eras.

"There's no doubt in my mind that she ended up as the No.1 allrounder in the world for that reason."

Though hurt to be relieved of the Southern Stars vice-captaincy in 2009, Sthalekar remained a trusted mentor to younger NSW and Australian teammates - indeed, she coached some of them in her junior development job with Cricket NSW.

Known to her teammates as "Shaker" and always in the thick of things on the field, off it Sthalekar is a strong advocate for girls and women in sport.

After publishing an autobiography in which she detailed her struggle with depression, she said she hoped it would help others overcome adversity.

She also visited the orphanage in the Indian town of Pune from which she was adopted as a baby, completing a surreal homecoming.

Sthalekar departs with a cherished Test century against England and, across 50-over and Twenty20 cricket, four world titles, but no performance captures her contribution better than her 187th and last international appearance, in the World Cup final against the West Indies in Mumbai.

With 2-20 from 10 overs she was as frugal as ever, and broke the threatening middle order partnership between Merissa Aguilleira and Deandra Dottin by bowling both of them.

Then, the 33-year-old dived, full-length from short mid-wicket to take the one-handed catch that sealed the match.

"She has been doing that for a long time," Clark said of Sthalekar's jubilant finish in the field.

"She is passionate about sport, about providing young girls with opportunities, and passionate about her Indian heritage.

"You throw all that together and you have someone with a range of experiences and interests that make her a good person for young people to come in contact with."

After the final, still in bright yellow playing clothes, Sthalekar announced her retirement to her teammates, then to a cricket public that is increasingly appreciative of the Southern Stars' achievements.

She leaves the team, and the game, in a good place - No.1 in the world - and on a personal high.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia

First Posted 20 February, 2013 10:52AM AEST

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