Sport

As she competes in the ICC Women’s World Twenty20, Australian cricketer Sophie Molineux talks about the advantages of being a left-handed all-rounder and why she no longer bowls a wrong ’un. By Richard Cooke.
Credit: Matt King / Cricket Australia

Going off: Sophie Molineux, 20, cricketer

Why does everyone seem to be an all-rounder now? I think it’s Twenty20 – you have to be a good fielder because you can’t really hide in the field. Even if you bat later in the order, you have to be able to score quickly. With the bat, you have to be hitting. With the ball, you have to be able to put it in the spot.

Anyone who can spin the ball away from the batter is really effective. I’m not sure why there aren’t more left arm off-spinners in Test cricket. There are really good right arm off-spinners, like Nathan Lyon. But especially in Australia, the wickets really don’t give you much chance. Left-hand, right-hand, I think it’s really that variation that captains and coaches are after. Even if it’s not spinning, it’s just a different angle and a different place where it comes out of the hand.

Australia is a funny one. It’s a beautiful place to play, but at the same time, it’s very batter friendly. Especially in a Twenty20 game. It’s not unusual to switch on the TV and see 200 being chased down on a Saturday night. As a bowler, you know you have to be a step ahead. You know you’re going to cop it and you’re going to go for a few runs.

I once took seven for none – but I don’t really remember it. It was in school match a long time ago. In the under 12s national championships. I was 11 at the time. Little parts of it stand out. There were five wickets in a row at one point. I don’t remember being spoken about or pumped up at that age. Which is a good thing – I didn’t have that pressure to have to carry through.

Particularly through the junior level, I played cricket for the love of it. I’d play four games over a weekend – a game on Friday night, two games on Saturday and a game on Sunday. Playing with the boys, I couldn’t get enough of it. I got to a point around under 18s where there was a clear pathway that Cricket Australia had set up. I could see what the future could hold, if I really wanted it.

Then the Fs and Cs came into it. Fitness and conditioning. The gym and the running. I was really lucky. I had a really supportive family.

I’m from a small Victorian country town called Bairnsdale. Living in Melbourne since, I’ve realised there wasn’t a lot to it. You’d walk down the street and be able to say hello to every second person. I miss that. Here you don’t see the same person twice.

My old cricket club is like my second family. Cricket was a way of everyone getting together, having a good time on and off the field. That’s what I correlate it with – having fun in childhood. It was really up to me if I wanted to take it to the next level. Growing up in the country, it teaches you a lot of things. You value different things to the things you’d value growing up in the city. I’ll cherish those things forever.

I played all my junior career bowling pace. Well, pace is a relative term. Medium pace, which was really slow pace, let’s be honest. Then I realised that I hadn’t grown since I was 12, and I ended up having stress fractures from that. I thought I’d can the pace and focus on some left-arm off-spin. That probably gives me a better opportunity to go out with the stick and contribute as well.

As a spin bowler, you just have to keep learning. Especially at my age. And at any age. You have to keep evolving your game. The way cricket is going, everyone has plans for each other. And you have to come out each series and each game with something new. And that takes conversation with coaches and others. I’m really lucky to be working with former left-arm offie for Australia Shelley Nitschke. That’s been brilliant. You have to be really resilient as well.

I’m trying to be a sponge and soak up everything about spin bowling I can. Speaking with players, especially older players, coaches… I’m also watching a lot of footage. There is so much of it available now. You’re just going to have to keep evolving with the game.

I used to bowl a wrong ’un as a kid, but it would wind up on the top of the nets. I got told to can that.

This week’s highlights…

Motorsport: WRC Rally Australia

Saturday and Sunday, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Soccer: Socceroos v Korea Republic

Saturday, 6.50pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Cricket: Australia v South Africa, T20

Saturday, 6.20pm (AEST), Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast

Rugby union: Wallabies v Italy

Sunday, 1am (AEDT), Stadio Euganeo, Padua, Italy

Cricket: Women’s World Twenty20 – Australia v India

Sunday, 2am (AEDT), Providence Stadium, Guyana

• Soccer: Socceroos v Lebanon

Tuesday, 7.30pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium, Sydney

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 17, 2018 as "Going off". Subscribe here.

Richard Cooke
is a journalist and writer for television. He is The Saturday Paper's sports editor.