It might have been thought that Ellyse Perry – named Australia’s most marketable athlete, male or female, in 2013 – could do little more to enhance her reputation. But, in 2016, she did. Across 14 one-day internationals, she hit 732 runs at 81, improving her highest score twice in successive innings, with 93 and 95 (both unbeaten) against South Africa in November. In Twenty20 internationals, she twice equalled her best (55 not out) and in one of those games, against India in January, collected a career-best four for 12. She captained the Sydney Sixers, runners-up in the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League; reached a fourth successive World Twenty20 final; and won the National Cricket League final with New South Wales.
If consistency is the mark of greatness, Perry raised the bar: her run of 17 fifties in 23 ODI innings since the start of 2014 has never been bettered by man or woman. She was the leading scorer in the last two Ashes – at home in 2013-14, and in England in 2015 – and no one took more wickets. The 2015 series was a career highlight: “It’s nice to have played more of a role with the bat in the last couple of years, but it’s far more enjoyable when you’re celebrating a series victory as a team.” Her ultimate aim is to “contribute equally with bat and ball”.
Though in recent years her batting has brought fame, Perry began as a bowler, the spearhead of the attack. On debut against New Zealand in July 2007, aged 16, she became Australia’s youngest international cricketer. In 2010, she was the leading wicket-taker when they won the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, and claimed three for 18 in the final. She was vital in Australia’s hat-trick of titles – two more WWT20s, one World Cup – between 2012 and 2014, and will for ever be remembered for the 2013 World Cup final against West Indies when, with an injured ankle, she limped in for ten overs and took three for 19.
Born in the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, Perry learned multiple sports in the backyard with her father, Mark, still one of her coaches. At Pymble Ladies’ College she was captain in sports, athletics and cricket, and she became the first woman to represent Australia at World Cups in two sports when she played for the Matildas football team in 2011. She still plays for Sydney FC.
But cricket has come to dominate her life, thanks largely to its professionalisation: Perry now earns over $A100,000, thanks to her Cricket Australia contract, the WBBL and New South Wales’s recent move to make players fully professional. She identifies this as the key development of the year, “particularly how successful the WBBL was, and how many more opportunities there have been for female cricketers”. It would be hard to argue that her status as one of Australia’s best-paid sportswomen is undeserved.