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Abhishek Purohit in Mumbai
February 18, 2013
A couple of hours after Australia had won their sixth Women's World Cup, three of their players walked onto the outfield of Brabourne Stadium and lay down in the sea of confetti that covered the ground following their celebrations. Seeing that, an excited Holly Ferling raced towards them from the dressing room, her speed matching that of her run-up. She poured still more confetti on a team-mate, clicked photographs and then leaped onto the back of another team-mate who carried her all the way to the dressing room.
Seventeen-year-old Ferling, the "baby of the team" in her own words, had been in tears before the start of the final when informed by her idol, Ellyse Perry, who'd missed the Super Sixes stage with injury, that she was replacing her for the big game. Overcoming her disappointment, Ferling had hustled drinks to the middle with all the enthusiasm of the teenager she is, feeling "more nervous" than the batters themselves. She'd hesitated to walk across the TV cameras stationed just outside the boundary rope, stopping to gingerly ask for permission from the cameramen. She'd heard people calling out her name, posed for pictures, and signed autographs, all the while "pinching" herself to confirm all this wasn't the dream of a "star-struck" girl.
A day earlier, Ferling couldn't stop laughing while speaking. She was sharing space with women such as Perry, Cathryn Fitzpatrick, Lisa Sthalekar. It had been an "unreal" 12 months for Ferling, in which she'd gone from playing club cricket with her younger brother to delighting audiences on the biggest stage with her pace, her bounce, her vivacity and her joyous celebrations.
Ferling's goal this year was to make her state debut for Queensland. Little did she know what was in store. "I will never forget this," Ferling said with sparkling eyes and a permanent grin on her face. "I was playing age-group stuff. I was playing my grand final for my A-grade team [in club cricket]. I was Queensland Junior Cricketer of the Year [the first woman to win the award]. I went to Sri Lanka [with the World Twenty20 squad], made the Shooting Stars group [the junior national side]. It is an absolute honour … so hard to put into words. This is something you only dream about, to grow from making my state debut to making my international debut in months.
"I am really very star-struck to be honest. It was the time I went to Sri Lanka, I had seen some of these girls on television, I hadn't actually played with any of them. I didn't know what to expect. I was like, 'I am training alongside my heroes, sharing a room with them.'"
Ferling said all she had been told to do in the tournament was to run in and bowl fast, and credited her use of the bouncer to growing up playing alongside men, especially her brother. "I do love my bouncer. I worked on it playing against the men, having a variation when they are coming at me. I definitely wanted to have it against my brother if he ever annoyed me. He is over six foot now and he is learning to bowl them back at me. It fires me up.
"He plays for the same club as me. I was an opening bowler and he was an opening batter. It worked out well until he started getting stronger and older and started hitting me. Now he is bowling even quicker. I have had to improve my batting otherwise I am going to get hit. He likes the short one as well."
Ferling obviously shares a close relationship with her brother, who told people at the pub he works in to go home and watch his sister play for Australia in the World Cup. In the team, Ferling's guide was the captain Jodie Fields. "She is my club captain and my state captain as well, someone I know really well and trust."
At 17, Ferling had the chance to witness how "fanatical" people are about the game in India. She found it "incredible" they knew her name and wanted her autograph. Fielding in the deep, she would struggle to hear her captain's instructions amid the crowd's cries in Cuttack.
She relates all this without pausing for breath, with the infectious zest of a teenager who's having the experience of her life and can't wait to tell it all to whoever is willing to listen. Holly Ferling, 17, World Cup winner. "Incredible" indeed.
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