Cathryn Fitzpatrick interview May 16, 2007

How do you solve a problem like Cathryn?



Cathryn Fitzpatrick has been appointed Australia's acting head coach © Getty Images

She was one of the few women to pierce the consciousness of the average cricket follower. Australia, in particular, will miss her on-field prowess. So, how do you solve a problem like finding the new Cathryn Fitzpatrick? The answer - make her your coach.

Australia have just appointed her as their acting head, two months after she retired following 16 years as the world's fastest female bowler. And in the next few weeks, she could be offered the lead roles for both Australia and England, after registering her interest for the two jobs.

"I have a passion for coaching and am happy to see where the journey takes me," she says. She thought her first stop would be Ireland, where she was all set to take on a playing/coaching role in the country, but she had to change her plans at the last minute after Mark Sorrell's resignation.

As for passion, if she's half as fired-up in the coaching arena then whoever wins her services will be thanking their lucky stars - whichever team misses out had better watch out for their bails. She hasn't ruled out taking on Australia's men, or indeed any other men's team, one day. "I don't intend my coaching to be gender specific."

In the meantime she will hopefully be able to concentrate on developing the next Fitzpatrick. "There are certainly some fantastic bowlers around the world. India's Jhulan Goswami will only get better, as will Katherine Brunt, of England, as long as she remains injury-free."

But is there someone to replace her in the Australian camp? "I thought Emma Sampson competed well in her first outing and as she develops a fast bowler's body she will pick up a yard or two of pace. I think it all looks very exciting."

She won't be drawn on which job she would prefer - "I haven't even thought about having to make such a decision" - but she had no doubts that she would ever play for her country. "I always knew I'd play for Australia," she says, following the Aussie rite of passage of playing in the backyard and then progressing, "but I didn't realise how hard it was going to be."



Fitzpatrick: "I have a passion for coaching and am happy to see where the journey takes me" © Getty Images

Over the years she's had to learn to toughen herself up, particularly when receiving criticism from unexpected quarters. Two years ago, as part of her training to be an Academy coach, she was seconded to assist with the Australia men's team for the Super Tests. It was widely reported that Geoff Lawson took exception, dismissing the involvement of a female as "a symptom of too many peripheral and left-field coaching ideas."

She shrugs it off. "I think Geoff's comments were uninformed and I was disappointed that he didn't explore the situation before making the comments. No hard feelings, though."

Lawson, a coach of elite women's cricket, was disappointed at the reporting of his comments, and he told Cricinfo they were misconstrued. "The Australian team did not even have any sort of bowling coach at the time, and they needed one. I had been a big fan of her bowling, attitude and discipline and wish her all the best in her coaching career."

Fitzpatrick turned the whole situation into a positive - "I was overwhelmed by the support shown to me from the playing group."

Besides which, now the apprentice has turned sorcerer. She has said that whoever receives her services - and it's a fair assumption that she'll get at least one of the two jobs - she may just have a few secret weapons to bring to coaching. "My playing experience and the opportunity to work alongside coaches of Troy Cooley's calibre has enabled me to add to my bag of tricks."

But like a good magician, she's keeping the secrets secret. She will, however, explain how she conjured so many wickets: and she exclusively revealed to Cricinfo the secret of fast, accurate bowling. "Genetics - and a very strong work ethic." Ah.

So what's it like working with Cooley? "Ace!" she grins. "Such a great guy who challenges players to strive to next the level. It doesn't matter if you've played 100 games or three, you'll learn something from Troy." Just another thing for England's men to kick themselves over.

Fitzpatrick's not had time to miss playing, having just recovered from a knee operation by cycling and going hard at the gym. Besides which it's off season in Australia, "so I haven't had to deal with it just yet." That will come - unless, as is likely, she sweeps into a coaching role and keeps the women's show sparkling.

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo