Criticism of Ellyse Perry has been “over the top”, says Ben Sawyer

Ellyse Perry in action for the Sydney Sixers. © Getty Images

Sydney Sixers head coach Ben Sawyer has come out in defense of skipper Ellyse Perry who’s form has been under the scanner in recent times. After an underwhelming series against India, Perry began the seventh season of the Women’s Big Bash League with figures of 0 for 27 against Melbourne Stars in a two over spell. She came back strong against Hobart Hurricanes, dismissing both openers to finish the game with two wickets for nine runs off just two overs. With the bat, she has registered scores of 7 and 27 coming in at No.4.

“I think a whole lot has been said that has been a bit over the top, to be perfectly honest,” Sawyer said of the criticism being heaped on the allrounder. “To have someone like her lead our team is unbelievable and I reckon there’s seven other teams that would absolutely love to have her in the side. She’s a massive part of this team.”

The inclusion of the belligerent Shafali Verma in the Sixers line-up has meant Perry, who normally opens for the club, has had to push herself down the order. It is a role that, Sawyer said, the 30-year-old volunteered for herself.

“It was her decision, in a way, to move down the order. We’d spoken a lot about the fact that we hadn’t finished off games particularly well, and that was an area that we wanted to improve, and she put her hand up to do that. So, for no other reason has she gone down the order other than to help our side.”

ALSO READ: We want to help Shafali Verma develop her game: Ben Sawyer

Perry played an important role in Sixers’ win over the Hurricanes, stitching together a 63-run third wicket stand with Verma to steady the nerves after an iffy start. Sawyer admitted that the side’s ability to draw on her experience, and that of Nicole Bolton, in those tough situations would help them going forward in the tournament.

“I think yesterday showed that it’s an important part of our game at the moment. To be able to have Ellyse come in at No.4 is something that we haven’t been able to have before – to ice games and chase big totals. Obviously yesterday wasn’t a big total, but we are in a position to be able to do that if we have to with the batting line-up we have at the moment,” he maintained.

Ever since Perry suffered a career-threatening hamstring tear in March 2020, there have been questions surrounding her ability to dominate the international stage like she once did. After surgery and a period of rehab (and re-injury), the allrounder returned to competitive cricket during the sixth season of the WBBL. She showed her old consistency with the bat, collecting 390 runs in 13 matches at an average of 48.75 in what was a tough season for the Sixers. However, her bowling was far less potent than seasons past. She leaked runs at above eight an over, managing eight wickets through the tournament.

© Getty Images

Ellyse Perry picked up two wickets in the Test match against India. © Getty Images

Reflecting on the injury and her “rushed” return, Sawyer admitted that it was a difficult time for the superstar having to deal with all the restrictions of a bubble life and not getting enough training under her belt ahead of the season.

“Look, from my understanding the injury was massive. I mean she practically tore the thing (hamstring) off the bone, I think. So, for her then to get back to Big Bash again, I think if we’re all being honest it was probably rushed a little bit, but we all want Ellyse Perry in the team and she wanted to perform for the side.”

“So, you know, listening to people criticise her [when she was] coming back from that injury was a bit tough to hear. But from my end, once again, she put the team first and was prepared to come back even though she maybe wasn’t 100% right, and obviously, with everything that’s gone on with Corona and stuff like that, (she) hasn’t been able to stack a lot of games back-to-back. But as soon as she gets a lot of bowling under her belt, which she is now starting to do, I think she is going to be back to where she was, if not even better.”

ALSO READ: Patient Verma sees Sixers home in tricky chase

As per Sawyer’s assessment, Perry seemed to find her bowling mojo as the series against India progressed. Although she sprayed the ball around in the ODI series, her rhythm appeared to return in the Test match, where she picked up two wickets in the first innings. By the time the T20Is came around, Perry looked in much better shape. However, the return of Tayla Vlaeminck to the XI and the number of bowling options at Australia’s disposal meant the senior bowler was rarely handed the ball, leading to more questions around her form, fitness and role in the team.

Are her days as an allrounder numbered? Should she be looked at as a pure batter who can chip in with the ball when need be? Does she have it in her to reach the heights of the last decade?

“I think she’ll always be an allrounder,” Sawyer said emphatically. “I think she can bowl as long as she wants because she’s always trying [to get better]. She has openly said that she’s bowled a bit up front for the Australian team and she wants to get better at bowling through the middle and the back end. If she comes out and says that and works on it, I’m not silly enough to doubt her.”

“I know if she puts her mind to it, if that’s what she wants to do, if she wants to just become a batter then that’s what she wants to do. But I am pretty sure that she loves being an allrounder and might not enjoy the game as much if she’s not doing both. So I’d be pretty certain that she’s going to finish off her career as an allrounder.”

With two wins in two games, Sixers have taken an early lead in the points table. Their next match will be against Melbourne Stars on Wednesday (October 20).

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