WPL 2024: Renaissance-woman Ellyse Perry’s all-round bravado guides RCB to Eliminator

Ellyse Perry, one of RCB’s allround T20 stars, picked six ruthless wickets, took a catch and scored an unbeaten 38-ball 40, showing she’s the player you need when your back is against a wall.

Published : Mar 14, 2024 08:49 IST , New Delhi - 9 MINS READ

Watching Ellyse Perry ply her trade is like watching a National Geographic documentary. Think about the ones set against the absorbing baritone of David Attenborough; ones about apex predators effortlessly striking down their prey. There’s a lot of hubbub around her but she, in the centre of it all, is unbothered. No aggression, no provocation, just results.

Ironically though, her side - Royal Challengers Bangalore - was the one trying to escape the claws of a much stronger opponent in Mumbai Indians. The stakes? Securing the final spot in the playoffs bracket of the Women’s Premier League (WPL), which also has two other franchises -- Gujarat Giants and UP Warriorz – circling the skies around the kill, looking to usurp it for themselves.

Big fights demand big fighters. Perry is as warrior-like as they come in women’s cricket. Quietly, often letting her bat and ball do the talking, Perry has – for decades – shown a world sceptical of women’s cricket that the girls could play and play marvellously well.

The 33-year-old is a genuine allrounder and, despite injury struggles now and again, has an enviable record with bat, ball and the on the field. She’s the kind of player you want in the team when you’ve got your back to the wall. On a night when her team needed a hero, Perry took six ruthless wickets, took a catch and scored an unbeaten 38-ball 40 to take her team into the playoffs.

Six degrees of supremacy

Smriti Mandhana introduced Perry in the seventh over with MI having lost Hayley Matthews fairly early, courtesy a sharp sliding catch from Perry at deep square leg. S. Sajana was the side’s makeshift opener in Yastika Bhatia’s absence and understood the brief of keeping the scoreboard ticking.

Perry was miserly in her first over, giving away just two runs and asking questions aplenty of Sajana and Nat Sciver-Brunt. She bowled to the stumps, keeping things simple, trying to get the ball into the batter, her consistency at hitting that line almost Test-like.

RELATED: Mandhana credits team management and fan support as RCB storms into playoffs

She returned in the ninth over, giving away a generous half-volley off the third ball. Sajana was happy to dispatch the ball to the fence. Perry punished her moments after, with a jaffa clipping Sajana’s off stump. That already got fans on their feet, but the volumes would hit fever pitch a few seconds later when Harmanpreet chopped a delivery floating outside off back onto the stumps off the very next ball. Two deliveries, two off-stumps left glowing in red at 60-degree inclinations. 

Perry’s next victim was Amelia Kerr with the ball beating her defence and brushing the back pad. Paschim Pathak was not moved by Perry’s persistent appeals. After a conversation with Richa Ghosh and Smriti, a review was taken, showing the ball crashing into the leg stump.

Amanjot Kaur was the next batter who thought she could take the bull in red, black and gold by the horns, starting with a boundary that split the field between square and fine leg. But Perry was not to be toyed with, sending in a back-of-a-length delivery that pitched outside off and then swung in to clip the off stump bail.

“You must be kidding! How are you getting so much deviation off this surface!” a gobsmacked WV Raman exclaimed on comms.

Perry bowled out in the 13th over, taking out Pooja Vastrakar and Sciver-Brunt in the span of four balls. She uprooted Pooja’s off stump as she tried to swing big to reach her fifer. Sciver-Brunt was trapped leg before, with the ball heading into the side of her front pad.

“The conditions were conducive to the ball moving around a bit off the seam. When that happens, you can get it close to the stumps,” Perry said in her assessment of her spell.

“Even Mumbai maximised on that when they were targeting the stumps I think we got a good grasp of the game. Something we targeted was starting the PowerPlay well with our bowling and that came together and I am glad to be a part of it.”

Her contribution did not end there as she steadied a dicey chase and brought up a win with Richa Ghosh, the hero of a heart-breaking effort against Delhi Capitals, for company.

Charlotte Edwards, coach of the Mumbai Indians, was helpless as she watched along from the team dugout.

“I still stand by what I said five years ago: she is the greatest player I have seen with bat and ball and on the field. She is an unbelievable person as well. We are lucky to have Ellyse in our game as a role model. Sometimes you just have to say well done to the opposition when they’ve done better than us,” she conceded after the game.

A rematch of the same fixture awaits Edwards and Co. in the Eliminator on Friday and she’s counting on Perry running out of luck.

“She had a great day today, hopefully she won’t have such a good day on Friday. We are watching greatness, and she will be around for longer,” she added.

One with the elements

Perry is happy to credit every external factor she can find for her success - her team, the wicket, the nip in the air, even luck! For the uninitiated, the first thought is humility. In Perry’s case, that’s not all. It’s how that slate remains free of old adamant chalk marks. After a night like this, she reveals that had a chocolate brownie with ice cream along with her teammates, put on her reading glasses and caught up on some reading.

“It’s easy to get carried away when things go well for you but I feel like a lot of the time, we don’t have a lot of control over things going well for you. Of course, you work hard and put yourself in good positions but there are so many other factors that go into the outcome of a game. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learnt not to overreact either way whether it’s a good night or a bad night.”

“As I said, the sun comes up the next day. Thankfully, there’s always another opportunity to play games quickly. Whether that goes well or not, we’re so lucky to be out there playing in front of these big crowds that are so fanatical about the game, which is a far cry from what it was like when I first started playing. There was no one coming to our games and no interest in the sport like there is now,” Perry said.

Gunning for glory

Perry’s transformation in the Australian setup is fabled. So competitive is this world-beating outfit that it did not hesitate to drop the veteran player in T20Is when her form was not fitting into the team’s jigsaw. Her career, since then, is one we can trace in two time periods, before and after that decision.

The Perry we see now is a far cry from the Perry of the past. The cherubic multisport player evolved into a cheerful realist, working hard to keep a steady head as she meandered through her roles in the team. Over the last few years, including her run in Australia’s winter fixtures in India, one saw her bowl far less than one is used to, particularly in this format. Her strike rate benefitted as a result. She returned to her boundary-clearing form, strengthening the spine of the Australian effort with the bat.

Perry and those around her broke this turn of fortune down to a mindset switch.

“Skills aside, one important thing is to be open to changing your mindset and be able to look at the game and yourself differently. When you’ve been playing for a while and things have gone okay for you, it’s easy to get stuck on defining yourself as that player and one of the cool challenges is trying to stay open to what else is possible and being effective. It’s about looking for new potential, even within.”

Ahead of this match against MI this season, Perry had bowled six overs going wicketless. So the six she managed going up against a lineup featuring the cream of international stars makes one wonder if the Australian management is taking notes. Perry isn’t wondering as the only thing she takes home is the satisfaction of working for the team.

“I’ve never looked at it that way, to be honest. The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is the success we’ve had as a team in various competitions. Being involved in some World Cup wins and Ashes series triumphs is incredibly satisfying. Rankings and individual successes are so fleeting and unsatisfying in comparison to team successes. Neither has been particularly relevant to me. Just being here has been most gratifying,” she said with a shrug.

“Without a doubt, being a part of women’s cricket when it’s just exploded… to think I am sitting here on a chair during the WPL, with crowds over 20,000 and 30,000 people is mind boggling.” 

For years, Perry has been the sport’s Vitruvian woman, the symbol of Renaissance in the women’s game. It’s moments like this where the Wahroonga-born firecracker proves why she is rated so highly and across so many generations and grateful are we to have the opportunity to bear witness.

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