When you talk about International womens cricket, one name will invariably find its name onto your lips. In Australia, Ellyse Perry not only dominates the cricket conversation, but football too, as she has represented her country in both sports since she was a teenager.
Since the age of 16, Ellyse has been at the forefront of elite womens cricket and football, and as a result has become an incredibly recognisable face, "I wouldn’t say [it like] that to be honest! As a country & a people we’re pretty stand-offish, I’m certainly not the most recognizable by any stretch of the imagination, but kids know who you are and it’s always nice to be able to have a chat with them. It’s a lot easier being a sports personality than a politician".
I've come down to watch Ellyse put some hours in on the training pitch here in Sydney, and am using this opportunity to quiz her on sport & nutrition. Womens cricket around the world has enjoyed a huge amount of growth, not just in terms of girls picking up the sport; but the media coverage, and money in the game has grown too; as someone firmly on the inside, how have you viewed this growth? "It’s been really fantastic, the last few years in particular have been really groundbreaking. A lot of things changed really quickly, but its been based on a really solid foundation, which, over the past ten or twelve years, has allowed it to grow. But it’s great to see the opportunities for female athletes that’s opened up and let them treat it as a full time career. It’s been a privilege to be involved".
With the ICC Womens Cricket World Cup on the horizon, have you been able to still play football much? "Yeah I’m still involved but I’ve not had a huge amount of opportunity to play. I trained with the team but didn’t manage to play because of my cricket schedule. I still love playing it but it’s not as big a part of my life as before".
The World Cup is in London this year, do you see a big contrast in playing styles between Australia & England? "There’s definitely different styles, though they’re quite similar in how they approach cricket. The conditions we play in are different which affects play, England are a bit slower, lower dex, bigger sweepings of the ball than us, they play a lot more from the crease we really drive on the upper. There’s quite a difference in our batting techniques. Bowlers tend to take advantage of the hardness of the pitches we play on".
Is your training affected much by the weather, especially recently as we've had such terrible weather here in South Australia? "It mainly effects the skills that we do, so we’re confined to the indoor centre. But it doesn’t effect the weights or running. And soccer isn’t effected at all we just train in the rain". I imagine training in the rain would actually help you play against England? "True!"
So let's talk about your nutrition & training. You are in a particularly difficult position, as you must have to train year-round, day in-day out, for both sports. What do you tend to eat in the mornings to set you up for a day of training? "This morning I ate just before I left, I make my own muesli with fruit yogurt at home, and have a coffee".
Thinking ahead to the World Cup, do you try to eat before you compete or play on an empty stomach? "Cricket tends to start at 10am so there’s really only time for breakfast, if it’s a later game I’ll have an earlier breakfast and lunch before we leave for the ground. One of my favourite pre-game/mid-game meals is peanut butter, banana and honey on toast".
When you are training, do you follow the same routine each day? "Pretty much, there’s a couple of hours in the morning, then an hour or so for lunch and recovery then some hours in the afternoon". Is that all gym work, or are you out on a training pitch? "It’s a mixture, I focus on skills every day then mix in some weights and specific running and speed work, fitness work or cross-training depending on my program. Each week is pretty specific".
Protein shakes & bars are big business in professional and amateur sports, what are your thoughts on them? "I think they play a role in that they’re easily accessible, particularly if you’re playing in places where it’s difficult to find sources of food to match your training. So for example when we were in India, that’s somewhere I would drink protein shakes as there’s less access to good and safe food so as to optimize your training. Otherwise I would always go for real food over a protein shake".
What sort of meals do you tend to go for in the evenings to recover? "I’m pretty simple when it comes to dinner, just make sure I fit in a bunch of veggies, some starchy ones, some more green veggies. I eat quite a lot of sweet potato and pumpkin, broccoli, asparagus, boc choi, things like that. I pick a lean protein too: I try and mix it up between chicken, red meat, fish".
Anything you avoid? "Not anything absolutely and totally, but I’m not a fan of deep fried stuff, otherwise I think there’s a place for all kinds of food".
So you have to train year-round, for two athletically demanding sports; do you ever get the chance to treat yourself with a cheat meal? "I guess so, I don’t view them as that. I just try and eat as much fresh food as I can. Sometimes there are social situations and things like that where it’s not worth being so strict. I don’t really look for cheat days; it doesn’t excite me or anything like that".
Between the football & cricket seasons, do you find your diet changes much? "Not really, sometimes when I’m training for both, my energy consumption will be higher but types of food won’t change".
So what are your goals for 2017? "I’ve got a busy year actually, we’ve got the world cup in England, then we’ve got the ashes series not long after in Australia. A lot of competition against the pommes this year! Really also just focusing on being a successful player".
Do you have a favourite place to play in? Any particular ground or stadium that has stood out for you in your incredible sporting career so far? "There’s lots of nice places in England: obviously Lords holds a special place to play cricket, but even other parts of the world like the West Indies. For soccer, playing in Germany was amazing as it was like their national pastime and they’re certainly fanatical about it, in a different way to how Indians are about cricket".
You've achieved a great deal so far in your career, both in cricket & football, what’s the highlight of your recent career? "I think having successful world cups, winning a few with my team. The recent ashes series where we hadn’t won the ashes for quite a while and winning it back. Sorry to rub that in!"
Follow Ellyse on Instagram, and follow her at the ICC Womens Cricket World Cup, taking place in London, UK, 24th June-23rd July, 2017.