Back in action … After recovering from an ankle injury sustained during a World Cup winning campaign, Ellyse Perry is ready to take on the Poms Source: AAP
WHEN Ellyse Perry came in to bowl her opening ball of February’s World Cup final, she pulled out of her run-up.
Despite a local anaesthetic dulling the feeling in her ankle, she knew something was up.
The ankle, which hadn’t been feeling right since the end of last year and had forced her out of the three matches leading into the final, had finally given out.
Medical specialists would later say that was probably the moment she fractured it.
“I felt a really strange sensation in my ankle, a lot different to how it had been feeling,’’ Perry said.
“It caught me by surprise. Those first two times that I tried to run in and bowl I just wasn’t quite sure how to do it with that sensation. After that it was OK, I managed to figure out the best way to bowl with it.”
The 22-year-old forged on to take 3-19 (claiming the top three batters) in 10 overs to lead the Aussies to victory over the West Indies in the one-day crown decider.
“Any pain I felt was certainly subdued by the fact the match was going on and I was playing with the girls – it was a World Cup final,” Perry said.
“I think I felt really indebted to the support that I’d had. It was a thrill to be out in the field having sat back and watched the three games prior.”
After two rounds of surgery and making a new “best friend” – her recovery tool the ‘game ready’, a transportable device that pumps ice cold water into a pack that is strapped around the ankle, cooling the joint while also compressing – she bowled 10 overs at Radlett on Tuesday, the most since February, and is primed for the sole Ashes Test match, which starts Sunday at Wormsley.
“To be able to get through everything and not even notice it is a really nice thing,” she said.
“Hopefully it will be fine and I’ll just be able to concentrate on playing again.
“I think it’ll always be something that’s in the back of my mind because I’ve had that experience now. But aside from the fact it takes me a little bit longer after a match to recover, I feel great.”
As she showed in India in February, and as friend and teammate Alyssa Healy said earlier this week, even an underdone Perry is better than none at all.
“She’s one of those people you want in your team regardless of how fit she is,” Healy said.
“The fact that she’s a matchwinner with the ball and even with the bat, you’d probably take her if she was 50 per cent (fit) to be fair.”
Perry burst on to the national scene as a 16-year-old, and Australian vice captain Alex Blackwell remembers the moment.
“Pez hadn’t played any national league games,” Blackwell said.
“There would have been a bit of talk about that selection, given that hadn’t been done before.
“It was a little bit of a risk picking someone that hadn’t been competing at over-age level, but she took that on. It didn’t faze her at all. She automatically looked like she belonged.”
While she’s renowned for her fast bowling – she has an enviable rhythm and makes the task of bowling quick at a consistently good length look easy – it’s her batting that sets her apart.
“If she played for a different state (not New South Wales) she’d probably be batting No.3,” Blackwell said.
It comes down to hours in the nets with her dad Mark – and plenty of experience as a junior.
“As a kid I was always a batter because I was really short,” Perry said.
“It wasn’t until I had a growth spurt and got a little bit stronger that I figured out I could bowl a little bit quicker that I concentrated on bowling.
“I still love batting. I’ve always done quite a bit of work on my batting.’’
She was so short that when she first met Healy, when they were about nine, she was given the nickname Dags.
“We called her Dags because her clothes were 10 sizes too big,” Healy said.
“She was tiny.’’
Healy said Perry was “good to be around” and while she’s not the joker on tour, she still gets a laugh out of her teammates.
“We always laugh that Pez comes out with one funny on tour and this tour she’s had four already,” she said.
Healy is not surprised Perry can juggle being both an Australian cricketer and soccer player.
“She looks after her body, she looks after her mind,’’ Healy said.
“She’s able to handle both workloads. It’s incredibly tough for someone to do that at the top level in both sports. She’d probably be the only person that could probably do it considering the way she handles herself.”
Mark and Perry’s mum Kathy will be at the Ashes Test match, but boyfriend Matt Toomua , who plays rugby union for the ACT Brumbies and is in the Wallabies squad, can’t make it because of the upcoming Bledisloe Cup.
Perry was recently voted the 36th most marketable athlete by SportsPro magazine.
But the title doesn’t sit easy with Perry.
“Any little bit of success that I’ve had is solely attributed to the teams I’ve been involved with, whether it be cricket or soccer,” she said.
“It’s a bit of an uncomfortable thing. For example the magazine poll, I’m not really sure of the criteria for something like that.
“…It’s a wonderful position to be in. I play sport because I love it. I’m very fortunate.”
And it means little to her teammates.
“You hear a lot about the marketability, but all I see in Ellyse is, ‘gee she works hard in the gym’,” Blackwell said.
“She’s got a lot of cricket left in her. It’s pretty exciting to see what she has in front of her in terms of just how good she could be as a cricketer. We don’t really think about the other stuff that she brings to our sport.
“She has brought good things in terms of people talk about our sport more because we’ve got someone like Ellyse in our team.”
As long as the promotion of women’s sport is helping get young girls off the couch, Perry is happy.
“I’ve always seen what I do as more of a self-indulgent passion more than anything,” Perry said.
“There are aspects of sport that are really important for community and society and there’s plenty of things that as an elite athlete you can do to make sure that you’re fostering those benefits.
“But from my point of view a doctor does so many more wonderful and fantastic things that deserve a lot more praise than anything I’ve ever done.”