SOUTHERN Stars fast bowler Holly Ferling expects female cricketers to nudge the 130kph barrier as the game continues to grow.
Not only are more girls playing cricket in Australia than ever before — 394,000 — but those at the highest level have never been more committed.
Due to a debilitating elbow injury, the 21-year-old Queenslander did not play a game between Boxing Day and October 6, but that didn’t stop her paying for flights to Hobart and Perth to support the Brisbane Heat in the WBBL last year.
Ferling’s rehabilitation was long and at times arduous. Having pushed herself to bowl up to 120kph when she was a teenager, injury had struck at precisely the wrong time. Although she is now back playing in the WNCL, she is “very unlikely” to be called up with so little cricket under her belt.
But her absence from the elite level has not diminished Ferling’s love for the sport or her expectations of what she and other women can achieve in the coming years.
“I honestly don’t doubt that there will be women in the next bit — and I hope it’s me — that can really push the 130kph boundary,” Ferling told Foxsports.com.au.
“At the moment I am somewhere between 105kph and 110kph. I have a bit of room to move and hopefully that happens when the rhythm clicks in. One thing I’ve learned is that if you force it, it never happens.
“I bowled at my quickest when I was 17 or 18 and just ran in and went at it. Finding that groove will be the thing for me. It’s exciting.”
One thing Ferling has — aside from raw talent that saw her take a hat-trick on her first grade men’s debut for Kingaroy Services Cricket Club when she was just 14 — is worldly perspective on women’s cricket.
Her ambitions to bowl quick and hit long are just as bold as her hopes for the sport’s growth.
“Why can’t we sell out the MCG for a World Cup Final?” She said.
“Why are we putting these boundaries in place? What’s to say what is going to happen over the next three years? I even think we will see the emergence of an IPL-like competition over the next few years, which will be cool.”
Locally, Ferling is heavily involved in grassroots development of the sport. Having played Kanga cricket as a child, she’s watched participation numbers skyrocket annually.
According to Roy Morgan research, one in five girls between the ages of 6 and 13 play cricket, while female participation in the sport has risen 27.5 per cent from last year. Nearly 90 per cent of those females are school aged.
The next generation will have a talent pool that we’ve never seen before and perhaps never expected.
Although Ferling wouldn’t concede it, her very presence in suburbs and clubs around Brisbane have seen girls flock to a game which didn’t televise women’s matches until very recently.
Now Australians can sit back in their armchairs and watch the best female cricketers in the country compete for the Ashes on free-to-air TV.
“The movement of women’s sport is quite unstoppable really,” she said.
“I went to a clinic here at Valleys a few weeks ago there were literally hundreds of girls at a girls-only program.
“To see that evolve over time is incredible. I played against boys and men in Kingaroy right until I finished year 12, so to see that there is one club with over 100 girls doing a grassroots program, I honestly couldn’t put it into words.”
It has been almost 12 months since Ferling represented the Southern Stars. Her tally of three Tests, 22 one-day internationals and nine T20Is is barely a snapshot of the potential she has on the world stage. She boasted the second best bowling average during the 2013 World Cup, but injuries have since stalled a promising career.
But unlike Mitchell Starc or Josh Hazlewood — who have struggled primarily with back and foot problems — it was Ferling’s elbow that gave way. A series of technical adjustments in the months since have allowed her to return to the crease with greater stability but less pace, while the rhythm that she took for granted as a budding teenager in the Australian set up is a work in progress.
Like any fast bowler, she wants to bowl with venom and vigour. Having played with and against injured captain Meg Lanning, she now appreciates raw speed is rarely enough.
“Sometimes being the quickest is not necessarily the most massive asset,” she said.
“Our batsmen are now batting against the dog throwers. They are generating pace of 130kph-plus. You struggle to hurry Meg Lanning up with pace.
“It was so important that I changed my action so I could get my bounce back. I need to have a ball that hits the bat heavy.
“You might not necessarily see the quickest bowlers that take the wickets, it might be the ones that have something else and can move it off the wicket. Those are the bowlers that will trouble the batters the most.”
Whatever the speed gun says, Ferling’s commitment to cricket is broader than simply her own game.
And for that there are literally hundreds and thousands of young girls that can be thankful.
“I have an awesome job,” she said.
“I get to play cricket for a living and I get to go along and help at these clinics with these kids. It’s really cool and there are so many kids out there who are learning so much more than what they realise.”