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Legendary Lisa | Cricket and beyond

There was something about Lisa. There is this sly smile that tells 100s of stories but would hide millions (that were supposed to be told). She had an action that would annoy the batter. No, her action was beautiful, but the batter knew the trouble. And her beautiful chemistry with Fields would always end up stealing a dismissal.

Lisa tempts you. She tempts you to hit hard. She tempts you to get out of the crease. It is like a magic spell. You fall for it, and the next moment, you will be walking back because you’d hit the ball straight to Blackwell(mostly) or you would have missed it, and Fields would show you the way.

Former leg spinner Kerry O’Keeffe had a role to play in Lisa’s bowling. Among the flurry of fast bowlers, Lisa’s spin was a go-to. No matter where she bowled, she did her job right for the team. Although, she loved to break down the middle-order.

No. You got it all wrong. It was never about her bowling alone. Her batting did speak volumes. In between Clarks, Roltons and Blackwells, she was a spark that held the innings together. Be it opening or at 11-down,(oh, she batted everywhere except at 8 or 11) Lisa’s batting was all about making her partner feel comfortable. She knew when to take the charge as well. 2010 T20 final is a sample. Her 18 off 13 was vital that day.

Lisa did not have a brilliant beginning. Although she did good, the Australian team was always about being the best and good was a below par. Rolling her ankle a few days before the selection didn’t help as she was overlooked for Tests against England. However, she got into the ODI team. She got a delivery to bat, scored an unbeaten 1. She made it up with two wickets, but her debut match was not all about that.

Rolling her ankle supposed to make her slow. She shouldn’t be running around. Nah. As if she is going to listen. And she didn’t, of course.

Lloyd was batting well. It was the fifth over of the match. England was just beginning to build a partnership. Lloyd tried to hit a delivery towards square leg. On a normal day, she would have taken at least a single easily. Here, Lisa happened. She ran quick, a forward dive and released the ball right next to the stumps. Lloyd, however, made it in a whisker but Lisa’s efforts showed what the future had. A good fielder. A brilliant athlete.

She did keep it up with 68 catches in her international career and hundreds of runs that were saved through fielding. Well, there’s a confession. Being a super athlete isn’t always gain. Her 24 run-outs tells you how difficult it is to be one.

Since we are talking about running, it was something that caused her damage when she was young. She used to train with boys and would hide behind the hat. Oh, the speedy legs made the hat fly once and there she was. The team got to know the real her. Thankfully, things moved on well.

2002 wasn’t a great year. It is not that she wasn’t doing well, it was about the mental battle. She saw her mother losing the five-year battle to breast cancer. It was horrible. It did take a toll on her. It rightly should. She had four consecutive single-digit scores in her domestic season, picked up two or more wickets only once. It certainly was hard and wasn’t helping. But she was processing.

2003 saw her coming back stronger with the bat as she went on to score three fifties in the quadrangular series that features India, Australia, New Zealand and England. Consecutive fifties against India and New Zealand was certainly positive. She then saw a huge spike in her career when she debuted in Tests. In her second match, there was an unbeaten 120. For a change, Blackwell was playing her second fiddle. It was a knock to remember even though the match was a draw.

Pearson was just too good in the match. A 7-fer in the first and she was on her way to destroy Australia furthermore, but Lisa held things firm and did not let that happen, one main reason for the draw.

Whenever she felt out of touch, she found a place to show her anger or whatever you call. WNCL. 2003 domestic season began well for her. A 59 and her maiden ton, 108. However, she faced a downfall in her form but kept it up with the bowler to stay in the page. She made it up for everything with a good series against New Zealand and in India tour.

Despite everything, Australia was too strong to keep an eye for Lisa. No, it wasn’t her fault at all. The team was just too good to be true. Lisa needed something to make heads turn. To make people cheer for her. Her alone. Oh, hello there 2006/2007 and 2007/2008.

The Belinda Clark award in 2007 and 2008 should tell you why those years are special. She averaged 56.55 from 2006-2008. Everything did fall in places for her. Oh, I got to watch her score unbeaten 87 in 2007. Unfortunately, that was Jaya Sharma’s day and she stole Lisa’s thunder.

With 24 wickets in 2009, Lisa became the first woman to score 2000 ODI runs and pick up 100 ODI wickets. A record that nobody would have dreamt during her times. Now, how will you end your career on a high? Yes, by winning the World Cup. 2005…2010 T20…2012 T20… and now 2013.

Maybe, it was destined to happen this way. Maybe, she wanted to end her career not only by winning the World Cup but winning it in India, a place she can call it her home. A place where she was born.

Just like her first ODI, she picked up two wickets in the last as well. In the first, she had a brilliant dive to start her career with, a run-out attempt and years later, she dived, took a running catch and ended her career. She ended up just like the way she began. Things do come around. It was a full circle.

Post international career, she had WBBL and now, commentary. She is still out there, enjoying the game, something that couldn’t have happened without her father.

She wasn’t a Lisa but a Laila until her adopted parents fell in love with her when she was three-weeks old. The couple who came in search of a boy felt a connection. Within weeks, she went to different countries before settling in Australia. She grew up watching her dad and became a clone of him. Except for the fact that she lived her dad’s dream of representing the country.

2012 it was. She came to Pune. To complete her autobiography. To see where it was going. No harm, she thought, and she was there in India. Always smiling, she did enjoy her trip to Sreevatsa. Her first home when she was three weeks. She was Laila at that time. Oh, what would a three-week kid know? Still, she wanted to see how it looked. At least to complete her story. To pick up the missing pieces of puzzles.

The manager out there, despite welcoming, didn’t know her story. She asked if she wanted to search. Her birth parents.

A little thought and Lisa decided against it. She didn’t want to do that. No, she wasn’t afraid but is the bravest decision of all. A nod from the manager and Lisa began to look around. It reminded her childhood days which she spent at her grandmother’s place. Big ceilings and the designs did bring her back some nicest memories.

Oh, she thought about how she was lucky at that point. She looked out, saw many kids who smiled back at her. This wasn’t supposed to be emotional, right? She was totally wrong. The smile on the kids affected her. She would have fought the tears, off course. Now, she went up and they had a tiny welcome back ceremony for her. Oh, this was hard. The kids deserved a new home. They deserved loving parents. A lot changed. Her views changed. She wanted to give things back. She did. ‘Adopt change’ happened.

Depression isn’t an easy battle to fight. It hits you hard and when you don’t know that you are suffering from one, the fight is harder. Maybe, the pressure of being semi-professional, her below-par performances or the people who constantly asked her about her game. We’d never know what suffocated her. All we know is, It killed her.

Her father helped her to realise that she was fighting one. Her mental health was taking a toll. She needed something that would distract her. Oh, she hated to take a break from the game because of the ‘home’ world cup that was coming within months. She turned to medication. She turned to keep things simple, more of family time. Her family was on board and they stopped discussing matches. It did take a bit pressure off her and she soon was back on track. It was a long journey and I had to put it short, like real short here.

To me, Lisa was/is an inspiration no only because of her game and how she continues to contribute to cricket but for the way she made peace with her story and how she was comfortable opening up about mental health. She was the first woman cricketer of my time who was vocal about it.

For an introvert like me, I love to hide behind my pen. It took me years to be vocal about my mental health. I battle depression and anxiety day in and day out. Of course, people speak about it now. A few years back, it wasn’t common. Not many cricketers spoke about it. Especially, women. She was the first person I knew.

For someone who looks up celebrities, especially, cricketers and grew up watching them, Lisa showed me that being vulnerable and talking about what one is going through isn’t actually weak. It is the bravest thing to do. She, through her story, told me that I’m not alone.

Years later, I might not remember her records or where she came from, but I will always how she made me feel and helped me in my fight. I know I’m ending this on a very personal note but a 1,700-odd word write-up deserves it, don’t you think?

Happy Birthday, Lisa.

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