Kasey Symons catches up with Victorian cricketer Annabel Sutherland to talk about how she’s readying herself for the busy cricket season ahead returning from injury.
Victorian all-rounder Annabel Sutherland’s highly anticipated return to cricket is just around the corner. After suffering a stress reaction in her right femur and having to withdraw from the New Zealand tour earlier this year, the jam-packed summer of cricket is calling to Sutherland like a siren song.
“As much as the injury earlier in the year was pretty disappointing at the time, and not to be able to go on that New Zealand tour… sometimes injuries can actually provide a lot of learning. And I certainly found that. But it’s been a great opportunity for me to look back on the past year and the positives and things I can also take away and learn—which I guess there’s a lot to learn having had my first year of being exposed to the international level.
“I really enjoyed that period of time. It was tough watching the girls over in New Zealand dominate! But I think I found a number of ways that I could still work on my game and use the last few months to really do that as much as I can. My body’s feeling really good at the moment, so I’m just really keen for the season ahead and can’t wait for some cricket to start.”
Making the most of her recovery time will serve Sutherland well as she looks to return to her status as one of cricket’s most exciting young stars. Making her debut for the Melbourne Renegades in the WBBL at just 15 years of age, Sutherland continued to impress and made her international debut in early 2020 at age 18. She was again named in the Australian squad for the upcoming series against India.
Beyond the excitement building towards that series, there is a smorgasbord of women’s cricket on offer over the next six months. With the WNCL season, series against India, the Women’s Big Bash League, The Ashes and the World Cup. Then, if that wasn’t enough, women’s cricket will also be debuting at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
“It’s certainly exciting. Looking ahead for the next year, we’ve got the India series, and then into another season of Big Bash which should be another exciting year. And then, looking into the new year, we’ve got the Ashes and the World Cup as well, so it’s a massive year for cricket in general, which is super exciting.”
But for Sutherland, it’s not only overcoming injury that could be a barrier to taking the field—as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on sporting fixtures around the country. With the WNCL scheduled to begin on the 23rd of September and the first ODI in the India Series commencing on the 19th of September, it’s a nervous time for the competition.
“The landscape of the cricket schedule at the moment is changing nearly every day I’m pretty sure. So I’m certainly not envious of those who are working on that schedule to try and navigate through the change in lockdowns in each state. But I think there’s no point looking too far ahead. Because you can’t really, it’s going to look different week to week.”
“The games coming up, assuming that things go ahead, which it sounds like they are, all we can do is to try and come in and train and get the best out of each day that we can.”
Before making her way to the new Queensland hub to quarantine for the upcoming India series, Sutherland was training with the Victorian squad and was enjoying the opportunity to continue preparations for the WNCL season and series against India. The WNCL season has how been postponed to begin after the WBBL season due to the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19.
“We’re pretty lucky. We can still access the Junction oval with Cricket Victoria. We’re still training pretty much full time, which is very lucky compared to a lot of other people in Victoria and around Australia. We’re all pretty grateful to have that and least have some purpose each day to go out and do our job.”
Trying to put energy into her squad, rather than COVID-19 what if’s, Sutherland is excited about Victoria’s season.
“We’ve got a couple of new faces in the group this year, young faces with Rhys McKenna, and Ella Hayward and the new coach, Jarrad Loughman. So that’s been really exciting, a different feel to the group, which has been pretty cool. Obviously, we lost Elyse Villani and Molly Strano to Tassie, which was pretty sad to see them go, but it’s given a few of the younger girls an opportunity to stand up a bit and show some leadership around the group as well.”
All Sutherland and her teammates can do right now is focus on training and continuing to be flexible and adaptable, the mantra of the modern athlete in pandemic times.
“I’m trying not to look too far ahead. I’ve really enjoyed this preseason and sort of just try to take small steps and look at the smaller goals each day. But definitely at times, you [tend] to look ahead and be pumped for the year ahead. I think it’s awesome. I mean, even knowing that the cricket’s going to be in the Commonwealth Games next year is another thing to look forward to as well.
“I guess, it’s just getting used to the fact that things aren’t always going to go perfectly, we’re not always going to have the perfect preparation for a series. But I think just backing our preparation, what we do have is the opportunity to train in a squad in our states at the moment, and using that as best we can to know that we’re doing all the work we can, and need to be doing, to be well prepared for the India series coming up.”