Unlikely allies putting a new spring into Tayla's step

Australia's prized pace-bowling asset has enjoyed an unconventional off-season as she takes the first steps on the long road back to full fitness

Tayla Vlaeminck laughs that her current training partners are so foreign to the world of cricket that a recent attempt at humour about her lack of batting expertise fell well wide of the mark.

"I was trying to joke around and lighten the mood a bit (because) I was a little bit nervous," Vlaeminck recalled of her early days working with The Australian Ballet (TAB).

"I said I was a bowler who didn't bat much, but that I'd recently got a little promotion to No.10.

"And they came back with, 'oh, that's pretty cool. What is there, 20 in a team?'"

While the finer points of a pas de deux have about as much to do with fast bowling as Swan Lake does with the SCG, one common thread between cricket and ballet – the crippling impact of chronic foot and ankle injuries – has seen Vlaeminck form an unlikely bond with some of the country's leading dancers this year.

Sidelined for 12 months in 2020-21 due to a serious foot problem that ruined her home T20 World Cup campaign, it was a sorry case of déjà vu for Vlaeminck last January when she suffered a similar injury to the same navicular in her right foot, forcing her to miss the World Cup in New Zealand and contemplate another long stretch of rehabilitation.

Having received treatment on the first injury from TAB's leading physiotherapist, Vlaeminck has gone a step further this year by rehabbing at Melbourne's Arts Centre alongside injured dancers, doing Pilates exercises that aim to strengthen their feet, ankles and calves.

"I've watched a couple of their classes and what they do is phenomenal," Vlaeminck said last week at an event marking 100 days to go until the Men's T20 World Cup in Australia.

"It's incredible the amount of force they put through their feet and ankles on a daily basis. Their physios and conditioning staff are obviously really experienced in that department, as are Cricket Victoria's.

"There's a couple of people in there that have been doing some rehab stuff as well, so I've been training with them pretty frequently, which has been nice. Just comparing notes ... talking about when they go on tour compared to when we go away on tour. Just the differences in two completely different sports is pretty incredible."

The decision to tap into the vast knowledge of TAB's medical staff has obvious advantages for Cricket Australia as they look to ease their prime pace-bowling asset back to full fitness, but the benefits for Vlaeminck extend far beyond the physical.

In Case You Don't Know Me: Tayla Vlaeminck

The chance to break up the monotony of another winter of rehabilitation at Cricket Victoria headquarters has been welcome, and one she is keen to maintain for as long as she can.

"Having gone through a few rehabs now, it can start to get a little bit stale, going into the same facility every day (at) Junction (Oval)," she said.

"I was struggling for a bit of motivation, I suppose … (Ballet) just takes cricket away from it a little bit, which is really nice.

"I have no idea about … the language and lingo they use, and they have no idea about mine. It's just a space where it's not cricket, and you can talk about just random stuff. It's been a bit of a fresh perspective on it all.

"It's been a really cool experience and hopefully I can continue to keep those friendships and continue working with them for a little bit longer."

Having already been ruled out until at least the end of the Weber WBBL in late November, Vlaeminck is reluctant to put a timeline on her return to play.

She hopes to start running again in the coming weeks and says discussions about the biomechanics of her run-up and her bowling action are also being had behind the scenes as she looks to strengthen her body and regain the confidence that has made her one of the most feared fast bowlers in the world.

Just don't expect to see her treading the boards with her new dance partners anytime soon.

"Oh no – and I could never!" she said with a laugh. 

"I've tried, just joking around with some of the guys in there, to get in first position or some of the other stuff. But nope – I'm no good and will never be any good.

"But just doing the preparation work is really helpful and I can see the transition between that and cricket."

Australia's Tour of the UK, 2022

Australia's squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington

T20 Tri-Series

July 16: Australia v Pakistan

July 17: Australia v Ireland

July 19: Ireland v Pakistan

July 21: Australia v Ireland

July 23: Australia v Pakistan

July 24: Ireland v Pakistan

All matches start 3pm local time (midnight AEST) and played at Bready Cricket Club, Derry, Northern Ireland

2022 Commonwealth Games

July 29 v India (11am local time, 8pm AEST)

July 31 v Barbados (6pm local, 3am Aug 1 AEST)

August 3 v Pakistan (11am local, 8pm AEST)

Group A: Australia, India, Pakistan, Barbados

Group B: England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka

Semi-finals: August 6, 11am local (8pm AEST) and 6pm local (3am Aug 7 AEST)

Bronze medal match: August 7, 10am local (7pm AEST)

Gold medal match: August 7, 5pm local (2am Aug 8 AEST)

All matches played at Edgbaston Stadium