Injury-ridden Holly Ferling up for comeback challenge

Sidelined by an elbow problem for close to a year, the Australia fast bowler wants to utilise the Women's National Cricket League to push her case for national selection

Brittany Mitchell
Holly Ferling bowled an economical spell of 3 for 27 off her seven overs, Australia v West Indies, Super Six, Women's World Cup, Mumbai, February 13, 2013

Holly Ferling last played an international match for Australia in November last year  •  ICC/Solaris Images

Just days into 2017, Holly Ferling declared that she wanted to become the world's fastest bowler. It was going to take plenty of work, but she was determined to reach her goal. Less a month later, she was sidelined for months through elbow surgery.
"It's all about timing," Ferling told ESPN when discussing fast bowling, but the sentiment is the same when it comes to re-joining the Australian side.
Dropped from the squad in November last year, the 21-year-old was using the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) to make her case for re-selection ahead of a three-game Twenty20 series against New Zealand and the returning ODI series, and most importantly ahead of the women's World Cup in England. Cruelly, a bad run of injuries extended her layoff until mid-2017.
Concussed while fielding for the Brisbane Heat in the WBBL, Ferling was later ruled out of the remainder of the competition when her niggling right-elbow injury was finally diagnosed as posterior impingement that would require surgery.
"It has been quite a frustrating 12 months, having the concussion and then before that I had the ongoing elbow issues," Ferling said. "When we finally investigated it properly, I had a bit of posterior impingement, which is really a straightforward surgery. I was really happy to get it done. Then I had a couple of other little niggles along the way during rehab with my elbow, but hopefully that's it for me for the season in terms of injuries, touch wood. It has been quite frustrating and I'm very lucky to have the support of the teams and all the support staff as well."
The injury was never going to keep her from the game for good, but fast bowlers are notorious for breaking down - Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson are perfect examples of the issues quicks regularly face - and Ferling's injury was an issue fast bowlers don't regularly face.
"Our physio had never seen anything like it before," she said. "I guess it wasn't an injury that you would associate with bowling, but it was a combination of me being quite lanky and quite flexible as well, which sometimes is quite a blessing but sometimes can be quite a curse. I got to about December last year and I had a lot of pain in the back of the elbow, and I couldn't straighten it properly unless it was under a fair amount of force."
The injury couldn't have come at a worse time as she attempted to press her case for Australian selection, but she saw her time off as a learning curve and even a "blessing in disguise".
"There was a tour against New Zealand that I missed," she said. "I wasn't able to push my case for selection throughout the Big Bash period because of the injury. I want to say that my elbow was the reason why I missed the World Cup, but I was down on a little bit of form having not played since Boxing Day last year; to then try to push really hard for World Cup, I was starting well behind.
"In terms of the timing, sometimes it's a bit of a blessing in disguise. I had a little kind of crack in a little bone in my wrist, so they just put me in a cast for a couple of weeks. It's good the minor niggles have been all pre-season issues and now that we're coming into the season, everything's been well looked after and looking good.
"This is probably a season that I look back on in a few years' time and think it's a good learning curve, and use the time that I've got to work on the things that I can. That's kind of been the last 12 months for me."
For many athletes, missing the pinnacle event of their sport would be hard to get through - especially seeing their side fall short in defending a World Cup title - but Ferling, watching in the early morning hours in Queensland, found motivation to get back on the pitch and prove herself as one of Australia's best after making her debut in the previous World Cup, in India, four years ago.
"Yeah it was [difficult to watch], but I think at the same time though, it was super exciting to watch," she said. "Right through that period, it made me realise how far women's cricket has come. So many people were watching the final: Lord's was absolutely packed out and people were paying to watch women's cricket; it was something we've never seen before and I think it's something that really stamps how far women's sport and women's cricket has come in four years - which really, is such a short amount of time."
Ferling, a superstar Queensland junior, made her way through the Australian cricket ranks at lightning speed. She took a hat-trick with her first three balls in men's A-grade cricket in Queensland when she was 14, and reached the pinnacle of Australian women's cricket at just 17. Now, however, she accepted that she just had to "do my part for Queensland and if the selections happen and everything falls into place, then great".
"But if it doesn't, I've still got a whole season to push my case.
With the Ashes just weeks away, Ferling has just a few games in the Women's National Cricket League to impress selectors and push her way back into the Australian squad. She's got plenty of experience against England, with three Ashes campaigns under her belt, but she remains realistic about her chances of pushing out any incumbent players. Ferling is willing to show the patience she has not yet had to display through her career.
"The women's Ashes is very special to be a part of, and I've been fortunate enough to be a part of three Ashes campaigns. It's something I wouldn't want to miss but it's also something that my back is against the wall in trying to make my way back in there, having little game time to prove my place.
"The girls who went away to the World Cup are obviously the strongest contenders for the squad, considering they really had a good campaign before the last game. It is going to be tough for me to get back in there, but there are plenty more tournaments coming up. I'm just going to go out and enjoy my time with the Queensland girls and put some good performances up because, at the end of the day, that's what it's going to take."