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WOMEN'S ASHES ODIS

Blackwell legend extends far and wide

28 October 2017
Our voices

Alex Blackwell's influence on cricket goes far beyond the runs she's scored and the trophies she's won in the green and gold

About the Writer:
 @JollyLauz18

Laura Jolly is a writer for cricket.com.au. She previously wrote for News Corp Australia and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. 

Alex Blackwell. Current Australian vice-captain, veteran of 249 international matches.

She’s skippered her team to a World T20 win, an Ashes Test victory and scored more than 5000 international runs in a career spanning more than 14 years.

All these achievements and more have been talked about this week as Blackwell prepares for an incredible 250th game in the green and gold at Coffs Harbour on Sunday – the first Australian woman to reach the milestone.

But Blackwell’s influence on the game, and on the women who play it around the world, extends far beyond the runs she has scored in the middle, or the trophies she has helped Australia win.

This was never more evident than in Leicester in early July, when Pakistan and Australian players sat stretching on the ground following their World Cup group stage match.

Australia had, as expected, cruised to an emphatic 159-run victory over their lower-ranked rivals -  who failed to win a match at the event in the United Kingdom.

Match Wrap: Aussies too strong for Pakistan

But rather than sit demoralised by the defeat, Pakistan player Javeria Khan sought out Blackwell for advice on how she might improve her game. Of course, Blackwell was only too happy to oblige.

Not intimidated by the prospect of approaching one of the game’s most experienced players for assistance, Khan had singled out the Australian vice-captain for one simple reason: Blackwell’s worldwide reputation for being exceptionally approachable, and ever-eager to help others whenever and however possible.

That generosity with her time and expertise isn’t limited to those at the highest level, either – when honing her own skills in the nets, always searching for ways to evolve her own batting and stay ahead of the curve in a time when increasing professionalism means the game is rapidly evolving, Blackwell never hesitates to offer tips to net bowlers, always eager to help others get the best out of themselves.

In September, the Australian Ashes squad were asked to discuss the influence Blackwell had had on their own careers.

Special tribute to legendary Blackwell

Some had grown up in the New South Wales system, training and playing alongside the 34-year-old for many years.

Others had only encountered her briefly on the domestic circuit before making their own relatively recent internationals debuts.

Regardless of the strength or longevity of their connection with Blackwell, one thing was consistent: the Australian vice-captain had made an impact on them all.

“I’ve pretty much played all of my cricket with Alex coming through NSW and then for Australia,” Alyssa Healy said.

“She’s been the one constant the whole time, she’s an incredible leader and someone a lot of players look up to.”

Blackwell bests England with match-winning hand

Young allrounder Ashleigh Gardner, who made her domestic debut at the NSW Breakers and played alongside Blackwell before relocating to South Australia, said Blackwell had been quick to take her under her wing.

“She’s one of the role models I looked up to when I first started playing for the Breakers and she’s just an awesome person on and off the field,” Gardner said.

“The way she goes about training and the influence she has on young cricketers, she’s an amazing role model for both her peers and the younger generations.”

For Beth Mooney, her first encounters with Blackwell came on the WNCL circuit on opposing sides before the Queenslander earned a call-up to play alongside the veteran batter.

“She’s had an interesting influence on my career,” Mooney explained. “I spent a long time playing against her and looking up to her as a mentor, and since being in the Australian team she’s one I go to, to pick her brains about batting and fielding and on how she copes in the elite environment.”

Alex Blackwell in one word

A similar theme emerged when the Australian players were asked to describe Blackwell in one word.

Competitor. Fearless. Inspirational. Committed. Intense. Determined. Enthusiastic. Positive.

Here’s another one: survivor.

When Blackwell started in the game full-time professionalism was only a dream, but it’s a dream she’s been able to realise. Two years ago, she gave up her job as a genetic counsellor in order to make the most of the years she had left as a cricketer.

Her roles in the Australian team have been many and varied. On debut, she was notable for the unique achievement that she and her sister Kate became the first identical twins to represent Australia in cricket.

 

Alex and Kate Blackwell with Lisa Sthalekar // Getty
Alex and Kate Blackwell with Lisa Sthalekar // Getty

In the 14 years since, she’s been a leader, a source of support, a mentor, a competitor and a match-winner.

At 34, she’s the oldest and most experienced member of the Australian squad, but retirement is not on her radar – during the World Cup in England, she confirmed her desire to play on until the 2021 event in New Zealand.

To achieve this, she has been working hard to continually evolve her game, master new shots, find ways to hit to new areas of the ground and increase her ability to more regularly clear the rope.

This much was evident in her match-winning unbeaten 67 against England in the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes opener in Brisbane on Sunday, as it was in her blazing 45-ball 90 in Australia’s World Cup semi-final defeat.

Blackwell's blazing knock not enough for Aussies

When her teammates were asked earlier this year, “Which teammate would you most like to be stuck on a desert island with?” the vast majority gave Blackwell’s name with barely a second’s thought.

And yes, this would partly be due to her love of fishing and the great outdoors in general, but it was also for the undeniable fact that when there’s a job to be done, Blackwell is someone who can be relied upon to use every trick up her (extremely well-resourced) sleeve to achieve her goal.

And, without question, assist those around her while she’s at it.


Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes

Australia lead England 4-0

Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.

England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.

Schedule


First ODI Australia won by two wickets

Second ODI Australia won by 75 runs (DLS method)

Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29

Coffs Junior Cricket Association Partners: Coffs Harbour District JCA, Nambucca Bellingen JCA, and Clarence River JCA

Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12

First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17

North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation

Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19

Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21

Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT


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