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Last Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Sthalekar steps up
By Gabi Lewis

Lisa Sthalekar
Sthalekar is being tipped as a future Australia captain
The weight of expectation resting on Lisa Sthalekar's young shoulders merely serves to drive the Australia all-rounder on.

Born in India 26 years ago, she treats the whole "future captain" issue with the same easy-going approach that has batted her into contention for Belinda Clark's job.

She is content to let veterans such as Clark, Karen Rolton and Cathryn Fitzpatrick take centre stage

But Sthalekar's continued fine form has ensured her place in the limelight going into the women's Ashes series, which begins on Tuesday.

"The World Cup and the India tour last year were big tours for me as I played an important role within a successful side," Sthalekar said.

"On the back of those, more people are expecting me to lead from the front.

"But there are always things for me to learn. Belinda is a wonderful role model and I can take a lot from her captaincy, leadership and the way she reads the game and counters that with her batting.

"Probably three of four of the older girls will retire in the next couple of years so some of us younger girls have to try and learn as much from them as we can."

Karen Rolton is the entertainer, I'm the stroker of the ball
Lisa Sthalekar
The 55 Sthalekar scored in a fourth-wicket stand of 139 with Rolton - who made 107 not out - was invaluable in Australia's World Cup final win over India in South Africa earlier this year.

And when Rolton crashed another 151 off 151 balls in a rain-hit series against Ireland in July, Sthalekar stuck with her to hit her first one-day international century off the last ball as Australia went on to win by 240 runs.

She returns to England, where she made her ODI debut four years ago, keen to keep the runs coming in the series, but also to show her progress with the ball.

Having emerged at New South Wales and internationally as a bowler, Sthalekar's spin has claimed 39 wickets in 41 ODIs, her best figures being 2-16.

When I came here last time I was the little kid - hopefully this time there'll be more hundreds to come for me
Lisa Sthalekar

Her only two Tests were in the 2003 Ashes and, after struggling opening the batting in Brisbane, she made an unbeaten 120 in Sydney coming in at number five.

She has since replaced Melanie Jones at four and poses a formidable threat with Rolton at the other end.

"Karen is the entertainer, I'm the stroker of the ball. I'm seen as the busy player at the crease," Sthalekar added.

"I'm looking forward to this tour. I love England's history and I'm going to catch up with my grandmother, who I haven't seen for 10 years, at the end of the tour.

"When I came here last time I was the little kid and spent most of the tour as the 12th man and didn't get to bat. Hopefully this time there'll be more 100s to come for me."

But she does not expect to see a repeat of the Australian whitewash in England four years ago.

In their last meeting, Australia were made to fight for their five-wicket win in the World Cup semi-final in Potchefstroom.

"I don't think the gap is there any more. From what I saw of England at the World Cup, they showed they are a force to be reckoned with and if we don't play to our potential, it could be tricky," she said.

"Losing Lucy Pearson will be a big blow for them, like it will be when we lose Belinda and Cathryn, so it will be an interesting tour. A lot of matches will go to the wire."

Interview: Clare Connor


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