Exclusive: “I was in a training session when I found out about my selection,” says Phoebe Litchfield

She is the youngest player in the history of the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) to hit a half-century. At just 16 years of age, she achieved this stellar feat. On the back of her prolific run at the domestic level for New South Wales Breakers and in the WBBL for Sydney Thunder, she was named in the Australian squad for the India series this year. The stylish southpaw made her international debut on December 11.

Female Cricket interviewed this talented Australian, Phoebe Litchfield, to congratulate her on her international debut and learn more about her cricketing journey.

 

Female Cricket interviews Phoebe Litchfield.
Female Cricket interviews Phoebe Litchfield.

 

Excerpts

Congratulations, Phoebe, for making your international debut just a few days ago. It was quite a dramatic start to your career as the match went to the super over.

Yes, it was a fantastic game of cricket. Though we lost, I wouldn’t take it the other way. It was pretty unreal. The whole time I was in the middle, I thought, is this real? The crowd and the atmosphere were great. It was an incredible experience to be a part of.

Alyssa Healy handing over debut cap to Phoebe. PC: NSWCricket / Twitter
Alyssa Healy handed over the debut cap to Phoebe. PC: NSWCricket / Twitter


What was your and your family’s reaction when you got to know of your selection in the Squad for India tour?

I have always dreamt of playing for Australia, and getting selected to go to India is an awesome start. I was in a training session when I found out about my selection. So, I had to hide my real emotions as the media release for the same was going to be out in a few days. I just had a big smile on my face. After the session, I called my parents, who were delighted. Just before my debut Alyssa Healy presented me with the cap and my parents saw it over a video call.

Let us go back and talk about how it all started for you. At what age did you start playing cricket?

I was about 10 years old when I played my first game of cricket with a hard ball. I always played cricket in the backyard with my brothers and dad. Cricket was a big part of my family. I enjoyed the sport. I also played at school with the boys. I was the only girl playing cricket in school. From there, I kept progressing, joining the pathway, and growing in the ranks.

 

Heather Graham and Phoebe Litchfield made their debut for Australia during 2nd T20I against India. PC : CricketNSW / Twitter
Heather Graham and Phoebe Litchfield made their debut for Australia during 2nd T20I against India. PC : CricketNSW / Twitter

 

Apart from cricket, we know that you also played hockey. Tell us more about your hockey and how did you manage to play both sports?

Yes, I played hockey and cricket till the age of 16. But then I had to choose one sport. It was a tough decision for me as I loved both sports. Deep down, I think I enjoyed training for cricket more than hockey. So, I chose cricket. Also, I felt the career path for cricket, and the opportunities to play at the international level were better for cricket.

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When did you break into New South Wales and Sydney Thunder teams?

When I was 16, I got contracted with New South Wales Breakers. Shortly after that, I was picked for the Sydney Thunder. It happened in quick succession. All of a sudden, I was in the set-up. I didn’t expect to make my debut in my first season. But I played my first games in both formats. It was awesome.

Phoebe Litchfield. Pic Credits: https://twitter.com/AusWomenCricket
Phoebe Litchfield. Pic Credits: https://twitter.com/AusWomenCricket

 

In 2019, you made your WBBL debut. In the same season, at just 16 years of age, you became the youngest batter to hit a WBBL half-century. Can you tell us more about that day?

To be honest, I could have lost the game for the team. I scored a touch slowly. Hannah Darlington was bowling well at the other end. I think when you are that age, still quite young, though, you just want to go out there and bat. You are not worried about anything else. I was very nervous, to be fair, and that played a part in my slow start. In the end, I scored some runs with Alex Blackwell and helped the team to win the match.

Smriti Mandhana heaps praises on teenager Phoebe Litchfield an “exceptional talent”
Smriti Mandhana heaps praises on teenager Phoebe Litchfield an “exceptional talent”


Before playing against Smriti Mandhana, you played alongside her for Sydney Thunder last year. How was it playing with her? Can you share some of the interactions you had with Mandhana? Also, this season you played with the bat that she gave you last year. Is it?

She came to the Thunder last season. It was awesome. I think all of us as players love watching her. Especially as a left-hander, I take a lot of inspiration from her. I have tried picking her brains and getting tips about how to form an innings, when to go, and when not to go, especially opening. I batted at three when she played with us but opened this year. At the end of the last season, she gifted me a bat which was very kind of her. I used the bat this year in the WNCL and WBBL.

Early this year, you were a part of Australia A that played against England A during the Women’s Ashes. How was that experience?

It was awesome. Any opportunity to play international cricket is great. I went into that series with not a lot of career behind me, but I managed to score some runs. Also, I got a chance to play with some of the senior players like Elyse Villani and Erin Burns. Spending more time in the middle with good opposition is always helpful. I played against quality opponents like Alice Davidson-Richards, Alice Capsey, and Charlie Dean.

Phoebe Litchfield's Fifty help Australia A beat England A by 42 Runs in 1st One Day. PC: cricket.com.au
Phoebe Litchfield’s Fifty help Australia A beat England A by 42 Runs in 1st One Day. PC: cricket.com.au


Recently you had a practice session with some of the local female cricketers from Mumbai, mostly aged around 19. What do you think of the future of Indian women’s cricket?

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There were 12 and 13-year-old girls who were catching balls easily. It is exciting to see the talent in Indian women’s cricket. I think, in another 10 years, the number of girls that will be playing cricket not only in Mumbai but also in the whole of India will be huge. Indian women’s cricket is definitely going in the right direction. I will say “watch out” to the rest of the world.

Did you get to explore Mumbai on off days – which are some of the places you have visited?

Yes, a few of us visited the Gateway of India. Otherwise, I have been out visiting restaurants near our hotel for dinners. Mumbai has got a great culture. I like going out to places that are like Australia. It is nice to see street life; I feel the people here love their cricket.

What is your message to the U19 Australian squad selected for the World cup next year? You must have played with and against many of those selected players.

Yes, I just missed out on the World Cup because of a couple of months or so. I am really excited for them (Australia Women’s U19 squad) to go overseas and get a U19 World Cup finally. It is going to be an awesome spectacle. Australia, England, and India will be some of the good sides, and these players can make it count in the lead-up to the senior women’s T20 World Cup. I wish the team all the best and good luck against Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh (smiles).

Phoebe Litchfield - Australia's next star in the making. PC: CricketNSW / Twitter
Phoebe Litchfield – Australia’s next star in the making. PC: CricketNSW / Twitter

Rapid Fire

Who is your favourite athlete (outside of cricket)?

Ashleigh Barty

Who is your favourite batter?

Smriti Mandhana

Who is your favourite bowler?

Amelia Kerr

You are quite a 360* player, but Which is your favourite shot?

Straight drive

Did you look up to anyone while growing up?

My dad; he told me a lot about cricket and got me into the game.

Which is your favourite cuisine?

I enjoy Thai or Italian.

One Hindi word that you have learned so far in India?

Shabash (very good)

If not a cricketer or a sportsperson, what would you have been?

Hockey player, and if not a sportsperson, I would have liked to act in films.

I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.

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