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Lisa calls time where it all began

Bharat Sundaresan

Posted: Feb 19, 2013 at 0031 hrs IST
      

Mumbai: AUSTRALIA had just stunned England by two runs in a most dramatic manner. Lisa Sthalekar, having been named player of the match for batting her team out of trouble before stifling the arch rivals during their run-chase, had just accepted her award. As she walked up to Sanjay Manjrekar for a brief chat as part of the presentation ritual, the former India batsman couldn't help but indulge in some banter with Sthalekar.

"Come on Lisa, shouldn't we be speaking in Marathi?" he said. The Pune-born Sthalekar's response was a shy smile.

Adopted by an Indo-Brit couple as a toddler, Sthalekar is, nontheless, every inch the quintessential Aussie, and among the finest to have ever donned the canary yellow jersey. On Monday, she announced that she was calling an end to an illustrious 12-year career that saw her become the first woman to achieve the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in ODIs.

She couldn't have ended on a better note, having played an instrumental role in Australia winning their sixth World Cup crown a day earlier. While she didn't contribute much with the bat, scoring only 12, it was Sthalekar's stingy spell in the middle overs and her dismissals of Merissa Aguilleira and Deandra Dottin that set up an easy win over the West Indies.

"I made my debut in England where my mother was born and I am ending my career in India where I was born and my father was born," she said. "It's got a nice symmetry to it, doesn't it?"

Sthalekar's background, which she described eloquently in her autobiography 'Shaker, Run Maker, Wicket Taker', has always made her a head-turner. And she made the Australian jersey her own while representing her adopted land in 125 ODIs, 54 T20s and eight Tests.

Her craftiness with the ball made her arguably the toughest bowler in women's cricket to get after, as a number of batters, including the explosive Dottin, discovered during the World Cup. In all, she finished with nine wickets at 20.33 at an extraordinary economy rate of 2.71 in her swansong tournament. Though her performances weren't as eye-catching as those of teammates such as Ellyse Perry or Meg Lanning, Sthalekar was easily Australia's player of the tournament.

Away from spotlight

Despite producing consistently telling performances with both bat and ball, the prolific Sthalekar always remained a somewhat unsung hero. And with her modest, unassuming personality, she was never one to thrust herself into the limelight. But anyone who followed her career as an international will remember its atypical last act an acrobatic, one-handed catch to win Australia the World Cup.

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