Blackwell eager for India challenge

Alex Blackwell reflects on her experiences in India as the Australians prepare for their upcoming limited-overs tour

Laura Jolly

07 February 2018, 11:32 AM

When Australia head to the Indian city of Vadodara - or Baroda as it is often known – for an ODI series next month, they'll be largely heading into unknown territory.

The last time the team played in the city, in the state of Gujarat in the country's west, was during an ODI tour in 2004-05.

Just one current Australia player was part of that seven game one-day tour that took in matches in Mysore, Vapi, Mumbai, Vadodara and Chennai: vice-captain Alex Blackwell.

Blackwell's memories of that tour are focused on more significant events than that sole ODI they played in Vadodara, which resulted in a five-wicket defeat in a dead rubber, with the tourists already holding a 4-1 series lead.

Instead, she remembers playing for her country alongside her twin sister for the first time, after Kate Blackwell made her debut in the second ODI in Mysore.

Alex and Kate Blackwell in the middle // Getty
Alex and Kate Blackwell in the middle // Getty

She also remembers the panicked calls from home on December 26 in the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami – a tragedy which didn't impact the team directly, but an event that sticks in the memory nonetheless.

"That was the first time I've been on a cricket tour over Christmas, that was quite different," Blackwell told cricket.com.au.

"The things I remember most about that trip are playing alongside my sister Kate when she made her debut, and Belinda Clark played her 100th ODI in this series.

"Also the Boxing Day tsunami happened in 2004, we weren't directly affected by that but we flew into Chennai, a city that was affected, on Boxing day.

"The gravity of the whole situation was something we understood once we landed in Chennai and there were a lot of worried messages coming from home wanting to know how we were and what the situation was."

That was Blackwell's first visit to India, but she's had several eventful trips back in the 13 years since.

The 34-year-old is Australia's most experienced campaigner on the subcontinent and has played 19 ODIs and 12 T20s in India.

That includes the Southern Stars' victorious World Cup campaign in 2013 and their World T20 defeat in 2016, as well as bilateral series wins in 2004 and 2012.

"I've had a lot of trips to India and every time I go, I love it," Blackwell said.

"It's a challenge, they love cricket so much there and it's a great place to test yourself.

"I always enjoy playing against the Indian side and I think some of my best performances have been against India, so I really enjoy that battle and playing against some of the greats of the game like (fast bowler) Jhulan Goswami.

"It's always nice to come up against her, she's a good friend around the cricket circles as well so I hope to have another chance to play against her. It's a series to look forward to, that's for sure."

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Next month's three-game ODI series, which begins on March 12, will be followed by a T20 tri-series featuring the Southern Stars alongside hosts India and current No.1-ranked England.

ICC Women's Championship points, which count towards 50-over World Cup qualification, will be up for grabs in the ODIs, while the 20-over series presents all three teams with a chance to prepare for the upcoming World T20 in the Caribbean in November.

Perhaps most interesting, however, will be the reception the series receives in India.

The team are fourth in the ICC rankings, just a single point behind third-ranked New Zealand, following their strong campaign at last year's World Cup in the UK, where they narrowly lost the final to England having already ousted Australia in the semi-finals.

The sudden swell in support for the women's game in India is something Blackwell discussed with Sydney Thunder teammate and India T20 skipper Harmanpreet Kaur during the Rebel WBBL and she's keen to see first-hand how the tide is changing.

"We've had good chats around that and how their success has shifted cricket for women in the country very significantly," Blackwell said.

"For Harmanpreet, being a star of that team, (was talking about) all the meetings and functions she's been to since.

"It sounds like there are champions for an IPL in India, owners of IPL franchises who have women's equality at the forefront of their minds.

"To play cricket in India at this time is exciting."

Australia tour of India

Warm-up match v India A, BKC Ground, Mumbai, March 8

Warm-up match v India A, BKC Ground, Mumbai, March 6

ODI series

First ODI Vadodara International Cricket Stadium, March 12

Second ODI Vadodara International Cricket Stadium, March 15

Third ODI Vadodara International Cricket Stadium, March 18

T20I tri-series

First T20I Australia v India, Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, March 22

Second T20I Australia v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 23

Third T20I India v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 25

Fourth T20I Australia v India, Brabourne Stadium, March 26

Fifth T20I Australia v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 28

Sixth T20I India v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 29

Final Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, March 31