Former Australian cricketer Lisa Sthalekar has represented Australia at World Cups; she was twice presented with the Belinda Clark Medal as the nation’s best female cricketer; she was the first female One Day International cricketer to achieve the 1000 runs and 100 wickets double but she described the all-girls new junior formats match she attended in Lindfield last weekend as a “surreal” experience.

Sthalekar attended the match between the two teams that were named after her and fellow international Belinda Haggett (now Belinda Robertson), and admitted she was humbled to hear parents yelling to their children “Go Team Sthalekar!”

“It really was surreal,” said the veteran of 187 international matches. “It was great to meet the girls from both sides . . . you could tell they absolutely loved being out there.

“It was what will be my last weekend in Sydney for quite some time because I’m off to Zimbabwe for the International Cricket Council’s qualifying tournament for next year’s World Cup. However, I’ll always accept an opportunity to pass on my love for cricket.”

Robertson, who scored 126 in her Test debut against England in 1992, was as equally honoured to watch Lindfield Haggett – coached by her son, Timothy - take on Lindfield Sthalekar, even though her namesake team lost a hard-fought match by four runs.

However, she shared Sthalekar’s enthusiasm for both the all-girls cricket competitions along with the junior formats – a modified format which is played on a smaller pitch, on fields with shorter boundaries, has less fielders and provides each child with an equal opportunity to bat and bowl as a veritable game changer.

“To witness two young girls’ teams playing against each other was fantastic,” she said. “I was saying to some mothers that when I was in this same situation 40-years-ago I had to play with the boys or women who were 30 or 35.

“I also think the new junior formats are fantastic. When you see the children try to bowl on a full-sized pitch no-one can hit a ball because it doesn’t come to them; it rolls along the ground and it’s hard for kids to develop skills if they can’t hit the ball.”

According to Leigh Brezler, a Cricket Australia employee whose daughter Eleanor played for Team Sthalekar, the appearance of the two cricketing greats made an important impression.

“It was very, very cool,” she said. “The girls loved it and the parents loved it. It meant a lot for them to meet the women who their teams are named after.

“The parents thought it was wonderful that Lisa and Belinda made the effort to be there, and it meant just as much for everyone to see two great players taking an interest in all of the children by providing encouragement and showing them a few tips.

“The Stage 1 new junior formats are perfect for these girls … most of them are aged 11, and the changes really are making a difference. Last summer the entire team only took one catch with the hard ball, but they took three with the modified ball in the first match this season.”

Two youngster who played in last Saturday’s final match of the season said the changes to junior cricket had made the sport even more fun and more engaging.

“I think I’ve improved on my bowling and batting,” said Olivia Linfoot. “I’m looking forward to playing more with my friends [next season].

“The new format has helped me with a lot of things,” said Eleanor Smith. “It’s helped me with my batting, it’s helped me with my bowling and fielding.

“Playing cricket means having fun with your friends and just getting out there and doing your best.”


New Junior Formats

STAGE 1 (Under 10/11)

Time: 120 mins

Overs per team: Max 20

Pitch Length: 16m

No. of Players: 7

Boundary Maximum: 40m

Ball Size: Modified

STAGE 2 (Under 12/13)

Time: 120 or 180 mins

Overs per team: T20 or max 30

Pitch Length: 18m

No. of Players: 9

Boundary Maximum: 45m

Ball Size: 142g

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