This year there a sense of calmness in the group: Ellyse Perry

WPL 2024

We all really understand one and another's roles better.

Five years apart, and both times being on the side that's been at the receiving end of Ellyse Perry's bowling wrath, Charlotte Edwards has no qualms declaring the Australian as the greatest female cricketer she's crossed paths with. Six-time T20 World Cup winner, twice a part of the ODI World Cup-winning Australian side, the inaugural Commonwealth Games gold medalist, thrice the recipient of Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Award as the Belinda Clark medal, and ICC Women's Cricketer of the Decade (2011-2020) - Perry's trophy cabinet has more silverware than a foundry. She's topped the rankings - on separate occasions - in bowling, batting as well as allrounders as recently as 2022.

Yet, the ultimate team player that Perry is, she feels being part of the era where women's cricket has gone mainstream has been more satisfying than any of the personal milestones and achievements. "Neither of it is particularly relevant to me," an almost apologetic Perry said in a media interaction when asked which of the career highs she's personally enjoyed. "I've never really looked at it that way, to be honest. Without a doubt the things that I have enjoyed the most is he success that we've had as a team in various competitions.

"I also think, without a doubt, being apart of women's cricket in an era where it's just exploded - to think that I'm sitting here with WPL in its second year... touching crowd numbers well over 20,000-30,000 people - is just mindboggling. So, in comparison, those rankings, individual success or performances are so fleeting and in some respects so unsatisfying in comparison to the team experiences you have where you're successful and you learn a lot about one another and you learn a lot about yourself.

"For me, more so than anything, it's just having the chance to be a part of this."

At Delhi's Feroze Shah Kotla ground in front of a weekday crowd of over 23,000, Perry produced a masterclass in inswing bowling as she reached another career peak with her maiden six-for in T20 cricket, also the first in Women's Premier League. Perry's miserly 6-15 broke the back of Mumbai Indians' famed batting line-up to bowl them out for a paltry 113.

"Last night I had a chocolate brownie with the girls and some ice cream. I then went to my room, put my red light glasses and read a few chapters of a book and fell asleep," Perry said of the celebrations that followed. However, the usually self-effacing 33-year-old swiftly shifted focus.

"It's easy to get really carried away when things go well. But I feel like a lot of time you actually don't have that much control over things panning well or not. You certainly work hard to put yourself in pretty good positions but there's so many other factors that go into any game, and the outcome.

"Especially as I have got older, I don't really want to react either way - whether it's a good night or a bad night. The sun comes up the next day. Fortunately in this competition there's always another opportunity to play games quickly. Whether it goes well or not, we are so lucky to be in the middle with these ridiculously big crowd who are so fanatical about it. It's a far-cry from what it was like when I first started playing some years ago. There wasn't really anyone coming to our games, and certainly no interest in the sport like there is no. When it does go well it doesn't feel like you have got too much control over it, other than the hard work you have put into it... It's easy to kind of just enjoy it for the moment when it lasts and life goes on quickly after that."

Prior to that record spell, Perry had previously bowled only six overs for 51 runs in four innings in WPL 2024. The Australian, however, stressed that her pre-match routines and prep ensures she's covered all bases and remain available for if and when a bowling opportunity arises.

"I have played for a long period of time now, so I have got a bit of a handle on how I need to prepare. There is always opportunity before a match to bowl overs out in the middle while warming up. I do that keeping in mind that you are available if the opportunity presents itself to bowl in a game. Always feeling that way and if it pans out to bowl, that's all you really need to do. Been playing solidly for the last 18 months now, I don't feel like I am short on cricket or overs. Whenever there is a chance to contribute to the team, it's being ready for that. We do a lot of work in the months before that.

Even internationally, Perry's bowling workloads have declined over the last three years partly due to the abundance of bowling resources in any Australian XI. The six-fer came as a timely reminder to her new Australia captain, Alyssa Healy, to avail her bowling services more often, especially in the shortest format. Perry, however, insisted it was no statement ahead of their World Cup title defence in both formats in subcontinental conditions - the 2024 T20 World Cup is in Bangladesh in September-October, the 50-overs version will be played in India next year.

"I don't think there is a case for anything," Perry said. "I have played a lot of cricket over a number of years. If it pans out in the match, we have been pretty fortunate in the Australian team that we have a lot of options. Here we have got a lot of bowling options with RCB. From my perspective, what I love doing as a player and something that keeps me motivated is to keep working on things and try to get better. I spent a lot of time last couple of players working on that, feel like there's been bits and pieces that have helped me feel confident that at times I can contribute when needed. At the same time it's not a big deal either way. I just enjoy being part of a team where we are all working towards the same goal."

Not just with the ball, Perry also made a defining contribution with the bat to lead RCB's chase against the defending champions. After the team lost three cheap wickets, Perry steadied the ship in an unbroken 76-run stand with Richa Ghosh, making 40* to put RCB in the WPL 2024 Eliminator - their maiden playoffs qualification after a torrid inaugural year. Perry credited more time together as a team, at RCB, in helping them bond better on and off the field, which has reflected in the results.

"Oh I don't think there's drastic difference to be honest. We're just another year into the competition. The team as a whole has had more time together. Last year it took us a bit to find our feet. There's never too much different in franchise cricket between teams being successful or not. But just this year I think there's a sense of calmness among the group. We all really understand one and another's roles better; got to know one another better on and off the field. So, just the luxury of a bit more time together has made a difference.