Two world cups in just over two years have become normal in a packed international cricket schedule.
For the Australian women’s cricket team, next month’s one-day international cup world cup will mark five years since their world cup semi-final defeat in 2017 against India.
For the seven women that we’re on the field in the green and gold that day in Derby and are now in New Zealand with the current squad, the quest to write the wrong and the fire to win back the one trophy they do not currently hold burns deeply.
Back in 2017, it was a talented squad that was charged with defending the 50 over title that was won in India in 2013 but compare it to the squad assembled across the ditch that is charged with winning it back, its chalk and cheese.
At just 20 years of age, Annabel Sutherland, one of the young new breed of talent in Australia’s ranks making a big impression on the women’s international stage is about to play a key role in Australia’s charge to another World Cup triumph.
The location of this year’s tournament has extra meaning attached for Sutherland. Picked in the squad to travel to New Zealand for a multi-format white-ball series’ last year in what would have been her first national tour, was taken away from her after a cruel injury blow prior to departure. A stress reaction in the femur of her right leg ended her chances of wearing the green and gold overseas for the first time.
While she made a swift recovery to feature in the WNCL final for Victoria that season, Sutherland said missing out on the tour turned out to be a blessing in disguise and helped her set her up for a big 2021/22 season and the year ahead, culminating in World Cup selection.
“It’s a learning curve that I think everyone sort of goes through at different stages and learning what limits your body has,” Sutherland told The Inner Sanctum in an exclusive interview last week.
“Injuries are part of being an athlete and it’s obviously something that you want to avoid as much as possible. But I think missing out on that tour, certainly, as any injury does, it teaches you a lot about your own body.
“It’s just learning when to when you can put the foot on the pedal a little bit more, and when you need to back off a little bit more when and take it easy.
“It’s something that I think each year I’ll continue to learn and be able to, each season learn about where those limits are”
In a loaded Victorian dressing room with national teammates everywhere you look, Sutherland’s stature as a future leader in both Victorian and Australian cricket is growing. Being able to lean on her teammates and step up to be a leading voice at such a young age.
“I think naturally that sort of happens. I feel like I’ve been around that Victorian group for a couple of years now and I think having some fantastic Australian players in that environment from when I first came into the setup,” she said.
“Elyse Villani has been one but Molly Strano (both have since departed to Tasmania), Meg (Meg Lanning), Pez (Ellyse Perry) when she came There’s been a lot of senior players who have been awesome in, setting the tone for that group and setting the standard, which is something that I’ve just tried to follow and do in my own way, which I think naturally sort of come out a little bit more as I’ve gotten a tiny bit older in the last year or two and matured a bit.”
Maturing both off the field and on the field.
After a big year of growth and milestones in 2020, Sutherland completed the set of international debut’s in October when she was presented with her baggy green against India.
She was one of the key protagonists in the final hours of the epic Women’s Ashes Test in Canberra. With the backing of her captain, holding her nerve to deliver clutch and miserly overs and make vital breakthroughs along the way as England went about running down Australia’s total in remarkable fashion.
After being dispatched around Manuka Oval for 15 runs off her first over of her final spell, Sutherland responded to only go for one run off her next over before picking up vital wickets to again swing the game.
While other players might have crumbled, Sutherland, with the backing of her captain, senior teammates, and most importantly her own game, rose to the occasion.
“A lot of it was just backing my fitness and knowing over the last couple of years how much work I’ve put in and just backing my game,” she said.
” I think I’m in a spot at the moment where I do have trust in my game and my skills, so it was cool to have that opportunity to do that and obviously grateful for Meg to throw me the ball, even though I went for a few the over before.
“I guess just running in as fast as I could, just trying to execute and I felt like I did okay”
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While a good friend and former premier cricket teammate Alana King was bowling from the other end, standing next to Sutherland as she continued to run in and bowl her country to victory was mentor, confidant, and childhood hero Ellyse Perry.
Perry presented Sutherland with her baggy green and the pair have created a close bond since lining up in the national team and even more so since the all-time great relocated to Victoria.
The days of Perry being a walk-up start in all Australia’s best XI’s across formats are numbered, proven this summer by her absence in the T20 leg of the Multi-Format Ashes series. Sutherland knows that she is one of the new breed challenging for Perry’s spot long term in the Australian side. While the champion isn’t going suddenly, Sutherland is enjoying playing alongside her childhood hero and being part of the group the next generation that Perry is helping. To ensure that the current golden generation of Australian women’s cricketers doesn’t go as quickly too.
“She’s an incredible inspiration for me and a lot of young girls growing up,” Sutherland said.
“To have the opportunity to train up close and in that Victorian setup (with her) has been really special and she’s been amazing in the amount she’s willing to give to her teammates. I think that’s one thing that any of our teammates will tell you is that she’s an extremely selfless person and will always give up her time to help you in whatever you need.
“She’ll always look to others and help others first and often that comes at a cost of her own training or she probably doesn’t always get what she wants because she’s willing to help everyone first.
“But I think at the same time she’s still as good as anyone going around in the world and we saw that in the one-dayers (against England) with her quality with the Bat and ball.
“Leaning on her over the last couple of years has been really helpful and she’s been awesome in helping me learn and improve. Even in that Test match, she was awesome to have standing there at mid-off for most of the game, so right next to me when I was running in to bowl.”
Cricket is never too far from the forefront of Sutherland’s mind. A cricketing family, with father James the once long-time CEO of Cricket Australia, and brothers Will and Tom club mates at both Victoria and Prahran Cricket Club, the backyard cricket games remain fierce and the conversations around the dinner tables often find their way back to cricket or some form of sport.
“Our family, in general, loves to talk sport, whether it’s golf or cricket or footy around the dinner table. We do struggle with talking about anything else other than sport so it does come up a bit” she said.
Whether it be the family ties or the love for the sport, and the will to make sure the people close to her get better. It’s the perfect scenario for Sutherland, with both her and Will in the Victorian setup and more than happy to exchange tips and ideas to will each other on.
“We obviously love watching each other play or being support being supportive of each other’s cricket so, every now and again, there might be something that we say or want to talk about or you know, need help with.
“I think we’re definitely willing to do that for each other, which is pretty cool to have. I guess (to have) each other and given the level that we both play out in the different experiences we’re exposed to, it’s definitely helpful to have Will and vice versa”.
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