Pace bowler Maitlan Brown has her sights set on an international debut after a long road to recovery from a serious hamstring injury and is grateful for the support of Ellyse Perry, an idol when she was younger, who went through the same challenges last year.
On the day Australia's squad for the India series was announced, a picture was posted on social media, retrieved from Brown's computer, of her alongside Perry as a young girl. Over the last 10 months, the two of them have been in regular contact as Brown nursed her way back from surgery having badly damaged her hamstring, which was torn off the bone during the WBBL, much like Perry had done during the T20 World Cup in early 2020.
The pair are now Sydney Sixers team-mates, with Brown having signed a three-year deal after moving from Melbourne Renegades, and there is every chance she could also line-up alongside Perry and some point during the multi-format India series.
"I was going through my computer the other day and found that picture," Brown said. "Really cool to be able to look back and know I looked up to Ellyse when I was younger and now playing alongside her.
"She had the same injury as me basically and it was great that she was in the WBBL hub, so was able to chat to her and get a bit of an idea of what her journey looked like. We texted back and forth a bit of banter, if I was in shops I'd send her a pic of a packet of ham off the bone. We chatted yesterday about how excited we were to meet up and compare scars. She was really great support."
Brown, who earned her first Australia call-up last year for the home series against New Zealand, detailed the long and "pretty boring" road back to fitness, which began while the WBBL was still going, when she opted to remain in the Sydney hub after surgery. She was later grateful for having the distraction of her university design course where she produced an array of products including a 3D chair, rugs and leather wallets.
"It was a bit of a rollercoaster," she said. "I stayed in the hub with a lot of my mates around and thought that was a really smart idea because I thrive off that. So to have them to lift me up and bounce off them was really good. It was really hard when I left that and felt a bit lonely at times hobbling around on my crutches. It ebbed and flowed in terms of emotions."
A gradual process of building up muscle strength, lots of solo hours in the gym and then a gentle return to bowling in pre-series reached the stage over the last couple of months where Brown was back up against batters in the nets and felt at full pace.
"At the moment I'm feeling really good, I've extended my run-up a little bit, there's a couple of extra steps to get my pace up, I'm [getting personal bests] in a lot of my fitness tests at the moment so feeling really strong and the results are showing."
Brown is one of a crop of young pace bowlers in the Australia squad alongside Tayla Vlaeminck, Darcie Brown, Annabel Sutherland new Sixers and New South Wales team-mate Stella Campbell. All have been clocked above 120kph in domestic cricket and although Brown hasn't had a speed gun on her since the injury she said everything feels like it did in the past and estimates she averages around 115kph.
"Think it will be really healthy completion," she said. "Stella and I have become really good mates so it's really exciting to see her get called up and she's so well deserving. I'm backing away in the nets facing her so really excited to see how she goes. The [Australia] side is so strong so it will be really competitive and that can only be a positive thing."
There will be at least one spot to fill in the pace-bowling department with Megan Schutt's absence from the India series and Brown could have the skillset to fill the role. "Schutter swings it up front and is really good at the death and I feel that's very similar to what I do," she said. "I definitely think that's a position I'll be eyeing off."
It is unlikely that Brown will get to play any matches against India in her new home state due to Sydney's ongoing Covid-19 lockdown and she revealed players expect to leave New South Wales to begin pre-series quarantine at the weekend. "We are still waiting a little bit to see what everything looks like but we are ready to go whenever they make the call," she said.
The three-match ODI series is due to start on September 19 followed by a day-night Test in Perth, then closing out with three T20Is.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo