Tayla Vlaeminck's road back: ballet dancers to bowling bouncers

Injured Australia fast bowler has turned to an unusual route to help rehab her repeated foot stress fractures

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Tayla Vlaeminck made early inroads, Australia vs India, 2nd Women's T20I, Metricon Stadium, October 9, 2021

It will still be a while until Tayla Vlaeminck is racing in again with the ball  •  Getty Images

The Australian Ballet is only 20-minute walk from the Melbourne Cricket Ground. But there haven't been many ballet dancers who have graced the hallowed turf of the MCG, nor have many cricketers stepped into the ballet auditorium.
That is until now. One of the world's fastest female bowlers, Australia's Tayla Vlaeminck, has taken the unusual step of doing ballet training with the professionals in a bid to find a way to rid herself of the repeated foot stress fractures that have seen her miss Australia's two most recent World Cup triumphs and will also keep her out of the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
On the eve of the home T20 World Cup in 2020, Vlaeminck suffered a stress fracture in her foot and was forced to celebrate Australia's title while wearing a moon boot.
She was fit and firing for the 2021-22 home Ashes after getting through a full WBBL for Hobart Hurricanes late last year. But she suffered another stress fracture after playing in the first T20I of the Ashes series and missed the ODI World Cup triumph in New Zealand.
Rather than go through another recovery on her own at Victoria's Junction Oval, Vlaeminck turned to the Australian Ballet to join some of their injured dancers who are rehabbing similar injuries.
"Obviously they get a lot of foot and ankle issues," Vlaeminck said. "I've watched a couple of their classes, and what they do is phenomenal. It's incredible the amount of force that they put into their feet and ankles on a daily basis.
"It's just been a really cool experience for me. Having gone through a few rehabs now it can start to get a little bit stale, just kind of going into the same facility every day, going into the Junction, and I've struggled for a bit of motivation.
"I'm still in there at the moment. It's just pretty basic stuff, like some Pilates reformer stuff, just literally strengthening my feet, ankles, calves, that kind of thing. But just doing some fresh lessons and just taking cricket away from it for a little bit as well, which was really nice."
The connection came about having worked with the Australian Ballet's physio. Vlaeminck was blown away by how difficult some of the simplest-looking ballet positions were. But she can see the value it will have in strengthening her feet, ankles, calves and shins when she does eventually return to pounding the popping crease and terrorising batters with her 120kph bouncers. However, she won't be joining the ballet anytime soon.
"Oh no, I could never," Vlaeminck said. "I tried, just joking around with some of the guys in there, to get in first position. But I'm no good and will never be any good. But just doing their preparation work, that's been really helpful and I can see the transition between that and cricket."
Vlaeminck has signed with Melbourne Renegades in the WBBL, returning home after a couple of seasons with Hurricanes. But she won't be available this coming season as she continues her rehab and she hasn't got a specific date on when she can run or bowl again.
"I literally have no idea," Vlaeminck said. "I think just trying to get some confidence back in running. That will be first."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo