Statistics in women’s cricket may not be strictly comparable to those of men given the contrast in the volume of matches played, but even so when you have the numbers that Cathryn Fitzpatrick has, they automatically command respect, and even awe. Fitzpatrick, a former Australian fast bowler, is currently the coach of the Australian women’s team, and is widely regarded as one of the finest players to have represented Australia. Firing down deliveries at the speed of 125kph, Fitzpatrick was among the fastest female bowlers in the world. She took 60 wickets in Tests at 19.11 and 180 wickets in One-Day Internationals, the most by a woman cricketer, at 16.79 in a career that spanned 16 glorious years.
In a candid chat, she reveals the secret of her miserly spells, speaks of the challenges she faced and of the bright future of Australia’s bowling unit.
You’ve been a part of two ICC World Cup winning squads. What are the special memories associated with each triumph?
The victory in 1997 and then in 2005 were very special for different reasons. In 1997, it was my first World Cup win. When you are playing in a World Cup and you win it, then you go to another one which you lose (2000), you realize how hard it is to retain it. Going into the 2005 World Cup, it was a whole different preparation, so both were special for different reasons.
You were also involved with the team when they won the ICC World Twenty20 title in 2012. Now the team has made it to the finals again.
Obviously I’d want them to win it again. I was the head coach in the World Twenty20 win, and had been involved with the team for 3-4 years as an assistant coach. I became head coach just before the World Twenty20, that victory was special too.
What was the secret behind your unreal economy rate of 1.91 in Test cricket and 3.01 in ODIs?
Oh I just loved it. I just wanted the captain to throw me the ball and ask me to bowl. I always trained hard and I think if you train hard it gives you confidence that you have done everything that you possibly can. You’re standing at the top of your mark and you are well prepared – not only physically but also in your planning.
I always wanted to bowl fast. As a fast bowler, every ball has to be an effort ball and I was committed to that. But if you don’t put the ball in the right areas, then it’s a waste. So obviously there was a lot of planning to match skills.
What kind of challenges did you face in your career?
The challenges I faced are different from the challenges the girls face today. Living away from home, you are obviously running a household and you make it well planned to make sure that you are shopping and preparing meals well ahead of time to figure out your training schedules. You can’t afford to get too lazy. It was not too difficult because cricket was, and still is, something that I really loved and love being involved in. The biggest challenge is balancing cricket life with your work life or study life to be honest. I had some injuries along the way but you expect that, and you have to just make sure they don’t affect you too much.
How would you rate Cricket Australia’s support in terms of funding and scheduling of matches to promote the game?
Cricket Australia’s support has been great. Their sponsors, the Common Wealth Bank back home, along with the Board have been a fantastic support. Not just financially, but for the girls it is a lot easier to train and they play a lot of matches too. Also the facilities that we get access to have improved a lot over time. All those factors have helped the girls. It gives us an opportunity to prepare them a lot better. Also the support staff that we now travel with has changed a lot, and we have physios, masseurs, doctors and analysts.
You retired in 2007, the year Ellyse Perry made her debut. Do you think she has filled the void you left?
Ellyse Perry has been an outstanding player for the side. She was just 16 when she debuted for Australia back then. She has matured and keeps getting better and better. I think her best is yet to come from a cricketing point of view. She is a great player and a great role model for all young girls all around the world. Often young girls have to choose one sport over the other, but somebody like Ellyse has shown that you don’t have to choose. [Perry is a double-international, and has represented Australia in football, and played in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup].
And now there is a young Holly Ferling who is inspired by Perry.
Holly is a real competitor. She is a determined young girl and her preparation for somebody so young is outstanding. She came into this environment easily, which is a credit not only to Holly but to the rest of the girls as well. She is only 17 and is certainly a player to keep an eye on in the future. From an Australian point of view, to have Ellyse Perry firing and Holly Ferling at the other end is going to be quite a formidable bowling attack.
You were known for your pace and accuracy. Do you believe Perry and Ferling can match your speed?
That will come eventually. I can’t compare myself with two young girls in their twenties, when I was bowling in my early thirties. I think those comparisons can be made when the girls become stronger and fitter to bowl, which will come over the years. My speeds at the end of my career were different from when I was 20 years old. Don’t be surprised if Holly Ferling and Ellyse Perry start getting quicker as they get older.