Life has changed considerably for Ashleigh Gardner since she first came to India as a 19-year-old. Back in 2016, she led a women’s team of Indigenous Australian cricketers for a first-ever overseas tour.
Seven years later, she is one of the superstars in women’s cricket. She became the Women’s Premier League’s joint costliest overseas player when she was signed up by the Adani Sportsline-owned Gujarat Giants.
“When I came to India with the Indigenous squad, it was challenging conditions and it was also challenging to captain a team that I didn’t know well,” said Gardner in an exclusive interview to The Hindu. “I was one of the youngest players but (coach) Shelley Nitschke saw some sort of leadership capabilities in me.”
Gardner, only the second Australian Indigenous female cricketer to play for the country, is a strong advocate of the community. She is proud of what Indigenous cricketers, like Jason Gillespie, Scott Boland, Faith Thomas and herself, have done for Australia’s Indigenous population.
“I guess it is important for young Indigenous kids to have role models for us to play at the highest level,” said the off-spinning all-rounder, who was the player of the tournament in Australia’s winning campaign at the T20 World Cup in South Africa last month. “When having conversations with other players like Scott, you don’t probably realise the impact you are actually having out there. There is more to cricket than cricket. And we are representing more than our families.”
About the WPL, she said she was proud of being a part of its inaugural edition. “As international cricketers we have been waiting for this competition to start off,” she said. “Now is the right time.”
She believes the WPL could transform Indian women’s cricket. “In five to 10 years, I think India could dominate women’s cricket, but I might be retired by then, so I won’t have to fight them at their highest,” she smiled. “It is pleasing to see so many young Indian talents, like Shreyanka Patil of RCB; she is a young off-spinner and handy batter as well.”