January 31, 1997

Bronwyn Calver: Australia's finest bowler

Dianne van Dulken

Bronwyn Calver has been described as "The best female bowler in the country at the moment." Her front on inner swing bowling, with the occasional leg cutter, off cutter or slower ball (but no off cutters as yet) have led to best international figures of 4/4 off 12 (against the West Indies, World Cup 1993), and State Figures of 5/40 (for ACT against Victoria), to back up this claim. Besides playing for NSW and Australia, she has the enormous good fortune to play First Grade for Gordon's Women's Cricket Club in Sydney and, as such, was easily cornered when I decided I had to know how she achieves these feats. (I play, or rather make up the numbers, for 4th grade).

Apparently the way to go is to start young (darn!). And, obviously, to make do with what equipment you DO have. She and her brother used to turn their Footscray front yard into a veritable battleground (surely as hard fought as any contest at the 'G), going forth into combat armed with tennis bat and ball.

This led to playing for the Junior Boys, the Junior Women's and, for a while there, the senior Women's. At one point, (and this was when she was 12, mind you) her weekends consisted of Junior Boy's Saturday morning, Men's Saturday afternoon, Junior Women's Sunday morning, and Senior Women's Sunday afternoon. All in all, a weekend well spent. (In fact, she hasn't really moved that far from this even now, driving up to Sydney from Canberra each week for games)

Naturally, this kind of line up give her a great grounding for the game. In Junior Boys, for example, she was expected to be able to play at any position where her coach, using the infinite wisdom so common in coaches, put her. Add to that the challenge of outclassing the guys, and the fact that Dennis Lillee, and his rather spiffy leg-cutter were perpetually on the television... gradually, her slow medium deliveries developed into the scorchers they are now.

Realising, by this time, that it was all too late for me, I decided that living vicariously through Bronwyn was the way to go, if I ever wanted to know what it was like being a first class cricketer.

Actually, the differences aren't that great, I find. Like Bronwyn, I never bowl bouncers. Of course, in my case, this is because I can't, instead of the fact that I only bowl to take wickets, and I don't consider bouncers achieve this.

We both play on fields with 50m boundaries. In her case, however, this is an attempt by the Women's Cricket association to increase the popularity of the sport, since it is considered that large scores draw crowds.

However, unlike Bronwyn, I have bowled a no-ball or two, well... several, in my life.

Alas, I also seriously doubt that I have the dedication needed to play at that level, even if I had the talent. For, of course, women's cricket does not have the huge sponsorship deals associated with men's (not detracting from those fine companies that DO sponsor it), and you would need to be quite addicted to make the sacrifices needed.

I was surprised to find, for example, that at state level, all players have to pay their own costs, including airfares and accommodation (there was no State sponsorship this year). And while these things are taken care of at international level, it still involves spending all your holiday time, and a considerable portion of leave without pay, devoting yourself to the game. This is especially true in a year where we can look forward to both the Rose Bowl competition against arch-rivals New Zealand, in February, and the World Cup in India in December.

Now, if this was me, I would go mad. I need holidays. Better still, I need paid holidays! But this does not seem to worry Bronwyn so much, with the dream of being in a World Cup Champion team VERY real.

I think she put it best when asked whether she found it hard to forge a career in the workplace, as well as the cricket pitch:

"I don't really care about a career, as such. As long as I earn enough to live, and to be able to play cricket, I am happy."

With an attitude like that, it is no wonder that Bronwyn is such a fine player.