A late call up to the T20 World Cup squad was special for Molly Strano, even if it meant running waters for the historic final.
Molly Strano was a member of Australia’s successful T20 World Cup squad, is the Melbourne Renegades’ leading wicket taker and a three-time member of the WBBL Team of the Tournament, but her Nonna is still keen on her learning how to master some traditional Italian recipes.
Jumping on the phone with Molly after a missed connection—elevators aren’t the most reception-friendly places—we quickly bonded over the gender roles projected on young women in Italian families, both having experienced similar expectations.
“Oh my god, you would understand the pressure that is put on us, like, you’ve got to learn to cook and clean from a very young age. I just used to avoid it like the plague. Being a young tomboy I didn’t want anything to do with cooking and cleaning.”
I joke that being really good at cricket makes up for it, but even that doesn’t cut it, “they don’t really know what cricket is. They aren’t sure what I do and why I travel around the country to play a game.”
But it’s been the downtime of isolation that has allowed Strano to explore these stereotypes at her own pace.
“My Nonna wanted me to learn how to cook traditional Italian meals at the ripe age of 14, but I did everything I could to not be bound by the kitchen. But I’ve come around to it now at the tender age of 27.”
While it’s taken Strano until the “tender age of 27” to get savvy in her Nonna’s eyes, her cricket credentials have been stacking up since she was a junior. Originally plucked out of club cricket as an opening batter—by none other than Mel Jones—but not long into her Victorian contract, Strano lost momentum with the bat.
“I was picked as an opening batter… so I made a few runs as a youngster and got picked by Victoria. All of a sudden I forgot how to bat for a moment and the runs really dried up for me.”
It’s what Strano did next that exemplifies her drive and work ethic—she widened her view of Molly Strano the cricketer.
“I only started bowling off spin because the runs had dried up and they [Victoria] sort of had to justify my position in the Vic squad. Like, ‘this girl’s useless with the bat so let’s try and turn her into a bowler. Oh, we don’t have any off spinners.’”
Strano took this new view of cricket and ran with it, becoming known for being lethal with the ball.
“I used to put so much pressure on myself and it can be quite unforgiving, batting. You go out and you get a really good ball and you’ve made a duck and that’s your day over. Whereas bowling, you’re not as brittle. You’ve still got another over or two in T20 cricket, or in 50 over cricket another five or six overs. You can make a couple of mistakes and still bounce back from it.”
Being an allrounder, Strano is one part of a movement in women’s cricket. In the 2019/2020 WBBL series, 42% of players were allrounders, compared to just 19% of the corresponding men’s competition. Strano can’t pinpoint one specific reason for this, but notes “it’s really ingrained in [the] female pathway to give both facets of the game a really red hot go.”
It’s been really cool to watch the Australian public fall in love with some of the big names like Meg and Ellyse
A good number of allrounders lends itself well to the growing T20 format, particularly given the small list sizes in the WBBL.The league itself is something Strano merits as “an incredible marketing tool for the women’s game.”
“We’re so lucky in Australian domestic cricket at the moment to have so many incredible players. And it’s just such a cool brand of cricket to be able to show those people, those players and their skills to the nation and it’s been really cool to watch the Australian public fall in love with some of the big names like Meg [Lanning] and Ellyse [Perry] and they’re all household names now. And that’s, I think, thanks to the Big Bash.”
It’s with the Melbourne Renegades that Strano has truly flourished, crediting the club with a positive culture across both their women’s and men’s squads.
“The BBL had already been running for a few years before the WBBL came in, and it was almost like as soon as we put on, well for me, that red Renegades uniform, the fans really bought in and really took us under their wing. It was really cool to be associated with the Renegades brand and straight away connect with the fanbase. And I think it’s only grown since then. Most teams have the motto that it’s, you know, one club, two teams and both the men’s and women’s programs work pretty closely together.”
The success of the WBBL also had a hand in the massive T20 World Cup earlier this year, culminating in the record breaking final at the MCG where Australia took home the trophy.
“I wasn’t meant to be there,” says Strano, “I got thrown into the squad, really, like the day before the first game. So just every day on the tour for me was incredible.”
Whilst not playing in that final team, it was still a special moment for the late addition.
“That final was just something else, to be able to play or not play myself, but to be there in the squad at my home ground at the MCG in Melbourne. I just never thought I would witness anything like that in women’s cricket. And to be able to be there and play a small role in regards to running the waters. I found it really special and I’ll absolutely never forget that day.”
Despite shining in the shortest form of the game, it’s the longer formats she prefers to play.
“I can be pigeonholed at times as being more of a T20 bowler, which I love, but I actually really, really love 50 over cricket.”
It’s the strategy Strano feeds on, and long format cricket opens up a world of possibilities.
“Day cricket can be like a game of chess, really. And it’s trying to work out certain ways you have to bowl certain batters to get them out and trying to work out if they have any areas where you think are weaknesses, how you can exploit that. I think that’s the great part about cricket. It’s a game of fine margins, but it’s also a game of complete and utter strategy and to be able to work with the captain to work out ways of taking the opposition down is something I really, really enjoy. I love watching footage of opposition batters and trying to nitpick and trying to work out ways you can potentially get them out.”
It’s this sort of dedication to the game that Strano has become known for, and also brought her undone at times, coming to a head in 2015/2016 when she missed the whole Women’s National Cricket League season through injury.
“I definitely edge towards more of an overtrainer. Normally during off season as well, when we’re not meant to be doing any skills, I normally sort of sneak off and want to have a bit of a bowl and a bit of a bat, just to keep in touch.”
She cites the isolation period as “a bit of a blessing in disguise to be forced to drop the bat and the ball for a bit and just somewhat relax and refresh and recharge” which has made her “pretty hungry for the season upcoming.”
“So I think it was a good little education piece for me.”
Molly Strano will be starring for the Melbourne Renegades in the upcoming WBBL season, kicking off on October 17th when the Renegades meet the Sydney Sixers at Allan Border Field.