The Australian international season will begin later this month when the women's side take on India across all three formats. To build up to the summer, which also includes the ODI World Cup early next year in New Zealand, we sat down with allrounder Ellyse Perry to discuss a range of topics.
You have two multi-format series, a World Cup and a Commonwealth Games over the next 12 months. Is there one prize that stands out?
I think it's really exciting to have that much cricket in such a short period of time, but also so much important cricket with big tournaments and something new in the Commonwealth Games. It's really motivating for the group, and given the complexities of the last 18 months, and trying to play elite sport, it's nice to have this roadmap.
Without trying to be overstated it would be lovely if we could be successful in each of those events. I think as a team we will probably be looking at each of them in succession as the most important at the time. But putting three of them together, it's a great challenge.
What type of challenge do you think India will pose over the next few weeks?
A huge challenge. They've been huge improvers, although it's really not fair to say that anymore, because they have well and truly arrived, but they've been building as a team and as a cricketing nation in the women's landscape for a while now. They are actually a really scary prospect in a lot of ways - they've got so much talent and often have new players coming through that we get to learn about each series we play. They've also had a fair bit of cricket this year, playing over in the UK, versus our quiet winter. I think there could be some very good cricket, especially that Test match, and I'm really look forward to that.
How much of where women's cricket goes in the Indian game - things like an IPL - will dictate the growth globally?
I'm sure it will have a very strong influence, just with the sheer weight of Indian cricket on world cricket. But hopefully a lot of the top nations are able to shape the women's game because we'd love to have our own identity and have a chance to really dictate how that grows and develops.
While we often talk about India and England and ourselves, and New Zealand to an extent, the biggest and most important part of that puzzle is the other nations as well, and making sure that across the world you grow and develop women's cricket. The Commonwealth Games is a great vehicle for that. Equally, if cricket was to make it into the Olympics, it's another great vehicle. With so many young women around the world having an increased opportunity to play sport, that's a real area of opportunity for us to hopefully capture that and grow.
So, yes, I do think India would dictate a lot of things, and a [women's] IPL will be brilliant, but I think there's a big role to play for all the nations and the ICC to make sure that women's cricket really grows and reaches its potential.
The India series starts with ODIs and there's the World Cup next year. Australia have won 24 matches in a row. What's the major motivation to keep pushing yourselves beyond the thrill of winning?
Winning is certainly enjoyable, but particularly in the last couple of years, the depth of our squad and the competition for places is pretty hot. There are so many great young players coming through our system and putting pressure on incumbent players.
We've just been really fortunate to have some really successful players and great contributors to the side. If you look across that stretch of 24 matches, whilst we've had a consistent squad, I think all the way along we've had different people performing at different times and really understanding their roles. A combination of those things has made it really enjoyable.
We've seen Georgia Redmayne called up to this squad on the back of her domestic form. Does that type of thing drive players' desire to keep hold of places when they have them?
Yes, definitely. Just the standard across the board and the ability of players. The gap between Australian contracted players and domestic contracted players is quite small now. So for someone like Georgia in this specific instance, if you perform really well in those domestic competitions, there's every likelihood that you'll be rewarded.
I think, equally, one of the big things that I've noticed is just how important it is to be all-round in terms of the skills and what you contribute to the team. I've seen a lot of borderline selection calls in the last couple of years made on fielding - being able to be a complete cricketer has become so important. That's been great for the sport, the way that we play, and really important for people's development because they've had to focus on everything.
Looking back to last season, how do you reflect on your own game?
First and foremost, it was just wonderful to play, and I think that probably goes for everyone, given the circumstances we were in. I really enjoyed it, like I have in every season I've been part of.
From a performance point of view, it was pretty lacklustre. And that's okay. I would certainly have loved to play a little bit better or contributed a little bit more, but I think it was just one of those seasons that was a challenge for me. In saying that, I felt like I learnt a lot and was certainly really appreciative to people that they helped me get back to playing after being injured.
How tough was coming back from the injury? Was it harder than it looked from the outside?
In so many ways, it was tremendously rewarding. One of the coolest things I've taken from that is just how much injury can be opportunity as well. While I was rehabbing there was lots of chance to reflect on other parts of my game I'd like to improve on and find means to do that. It gave me a chance to work with different people who I haven't worked with before and I'm really appreciative for their help.
I don't think it's fair to say it was hard or that it was emotionally tough because I've been so fortunate across my career in so many ways. Sure, it was a bit of a bump in the road, but at the same time I've taken a lot from it. Maybe it won't immediately be obvious, but hopefully in the coming years, I can really draw on some of those experiences and some of the work I've done to make me a better player.
Having had an injury-free pre-season this year, is there anything specific you've been working on?
With that extra eight months or so from being injured, it's just been a nice period to work on ironing things out, feeling like I've got good rhythm and flow again with different parts of the game, whether that's been fielding, bowler or batting. Physically being able to concentrate solely on being a cricketer again rather than having too much consideration to my hamstring has been really nice. I enjoyed that kind of headspace of just being a cricketer again and not a rehabber.
Are you looking forward to a period dominated by ODI cricket? Of the limited-overs formats, it would appear your ideal fit.
I never really thought of it that way. Particularly in the women's game, given the amount that we play, one-day cricket and T20 cricket have equal billing even at the national level, which I think is probably a little bit different to men's cricket and how much franchise T20 is played.
It's a different contribution you are making in T20 because it's a shorter game and perhaps from a numbers point of view, it doesn't look the same. I think one-day cricket was probably built to suit my game a little bit more, traditionally speaking, but hopefully given how important T20 cricket is to our game, there are opportunities to contribute there.
Have you felt challenged in T20 cricket to keep improving to ensure you keep up with how the game is evolving?
Definitely. I think any format of the game, as time goes by it evolves like any sport, but maybe it's faster-paced in women's cricket at the moment just because of how much change and development we're undergoing. That's not a new thing for me - I reckon that's something that I've gone through for the best part of my career. I think that in sport you've always got to push to develop and get better, otherwise someone always comes along who is going to jump you. It's actually a really nice motivating thing for me.
Your role may change at Sydney Sixers this year depending on who is finally signed. Have you had discussions around that yet?
Not seriously, but we have spoken in general terms that as a team we need to evolve as well. We've had some formulas that have been relatively effective over the course of the Big Bash, but the tournament is definitely changing. We saw the role of pinch-hitters being so important last season, and that kind of depth in your batting line-up and the ability to really elevate the run rate at the end became so important. So did medium-pacers and how effective they can be.
I think there's a number of areas in our line-up that we'll probably just tweak. It might depend on game-to-game match-ups with different teams. I'd like to think that it's not exactly the same Sixers outfit or style of game that that we've played the last couple years, but I hope it's still recognisable as the Sixers as well.
One of the talking points of this Australian squad has been the group of young fast bowlers put together. Do you think that's an area of the game that will keep Australia ahead of the chasing pack?
I do, and I think it's a really interesting phase of development because we have such exciting young players that are all that little bit quicker, but who are also a little less experienced with less time to develop their game. So I think long-term it's going to be an incredible advantage for us, but there might be some occasions where just extra pace on the ball with smaller boundaries and quick outfields doesn't always go our way.
Without sounding too arrogant about our team, we actually have some tremendous young spinners and senior spinners as well who perhaps are getting a little bit less talked about because of the exciting quicks coming through. The likes of Georgia Wareham, who I think was a key component to us winning that game against New Zealand to get us into the semi-final of the T20 World Cup last year, and Sophie Molinuex, who is back with the squad again. We've got Jess Jonassen, who is unbelievably credentialled, and Ash Gardner, whose bowling has improved in the last couple years and is more of a senior player now. So it's probably the blend of our two attacks, and the way that our spinners try to turn the ball and attack the game that that makes us quite complete, rather than just the focus on the fast bowlers.
Has the speed of development of that pace-bowling depth surprised you?
Probably not. I think that [given] the mindset around how we want the game to develop, pace bowling has been one of those areas that there has been a fair bit of focus on, and people have really pushed for girls to attack that. You just look at the amount of young players, we are bound to find some quicker bowlers in that group. Rather than that being an anomaly, now they are a lot more common because it's really being encouraged from a young age for girls to try and bowl fast.
The Ashes will be a points-based multi-format series. India played one in England recently and this series could be the same. Are you a fan of that format, particularly given how it promotes Test cricket?
I'm a huge fan. I think the more nations that we can use that format for, it will be great for the game. I think there's a place for Test cricket in the women's game and this format seems to make it fit really nicely. It makes it really competitive and gives it a lot of meaning. I think the more that we can play, the more players will get better at it, and probably even more importantly, the more fans will understand it and engage with it and want to see more.
Where do you stand on the need for multi-day cricket at the domestic level?
It's really important and I think it serves dual purposes. Certainly, it helps identify longer-format players, and it helps prepare the Australian team to play Test cricket, but equally, it's such a great tool for development. We've got so many young players in domestic squads now and a lot of them haven't played a lot of cricket and don't get a chance to play a lot, particularly at domestic level just because of the way that the summer set up. So for them to be exposed to longer days in the field, or longer days batting, it gives them an incredible resource to improve their skills and develop as cricketers.
The 2014 Ashes Test is regularly mentioned as an iconic game. You scored 102 runs and claimed eight wickets as Player of the Match. What are your memories of that? What I remember is how defining it was for women's Tests. It was, and still is, the most incredible game of Test cricket that I've played. It was just such a tussle on any session on any given day. There was no clear winner right to the last session. It was played on a really good, fast, bouncy wicket, a good outfield, in some really hot conditions at the WACA. I just thought that was so the platform for how women's Test matches should be played and staged going forward. It's a real shame that unfortunately we don't get to play at the WACA against India this time around, but hopefully at some point we'll get to play another Test match there.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo