Molly Strano, fresh from the mild scheduling of a VicSpirit season, couldn’t help but draw a smile when asked about how her body is holding up after the saturated schedule in the last two weeks.
“Being a domestic player and playing club cricket, I normally just play on the weekends and you have all week to prepare,” Strano said.
“So it’s a bit foreign to me but it’s also exciting and cool being able to align our schedule to what the men do and get a taste to what it’s like to play professional cricket at a really high level.”
Since Christmas Day, the Renegades have flown to Sydney for back-to-back games and then home to Melbourne for a further four contests in quick succession.
The WBBL, in doling out six Renegades games in 13 days, is fostering an appetite for more cricket.
Unless you’re an established international player like Rachel Priest, Danni Wyatt or Lea Tahuhu, who’ve grown familiar with a cricket schedule infused with unfriendly travel times, hotel stays, changing temperatures and back-to-back matches, there’s now nothing quite like the challenge of working through a WBBL schedule.
Injuries happen to tired players more often than not. A season can consequently end in a sudden, crashing halt. In many ways, the ability to combat fatigue and injury have become even more prevalent to the Renegades, as they boast the youngest squad in the WBBL.
Often it’s the younger players that still need adjusting to proper hydration and recovery practices, and ultimately figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
“For a lot of them it’s their first year and they wouldn’t have played in competitions or internationally where you have to back it up almost straight away, whether it’s after a disappointment or a high,” Tahuhu pointed out.
“It’s been a really good thing to allow the younger players to grow and just experience these things. You try to make sure that everyone is where they need to be and are looking after themselves the best they can.”
Indeed, refueling the tank has been a constant focus before, during and after games. But it hasn’t only been about smoothing the physical stresses – it’s about the mental aspect as well.
Rest days have suddenly become as important as training sessions.
“Just being mentally refreshed is really important for me. I’m really fit, so addressing the mental aspect is a greater importance,” Danni Wyatt, in her second season with the Renegades, said.
Of course, if you’re Strano, you’ll probably accelerate straight down the Victorian coastline to your family home in Anglesea where the sweet waters await you every time.
Nonetheless, the Renegades’ off spinner has been one of the team’s best at adopting a disciplined, enthusiastic approach to keeping her body in good shape.
“My fitness and being able to bounce back quickly is something that I pride myself on,” Strano said.
“You do a big preseason exactly for these big few weeks so you can bounce back and give 100 percent in your next game.
This is not to say that Strano escaped the physical ailments from the post-Christmas set of games.
Following a day in the piercing heat at Camberwell Sports Ground against the Scorchers, where she ran from long-off to long-off for the majority of the innings, Strano naturally felt her lowest for the tournament the next day.
It takes time to acclimatize to an increased workload. But we’ve also hit a rare point at which it’s not just the players that are loving these hoard of games. The fans are embracing the schedule too. They love the fireworks.
But the repeated efforts in the field with bat and ball – even on the back-to-backs – is what has elevated the overall product.
And so, we come back to that word again.
“It’s what you do after the game that’s the most important thing. Recovery is just crucial in such a compact schedule, and I think as a team it’s something that we’ve done pretty well,” Tahuhu noted.
The T20 format can never boast the length of a Test match or even a One Day game, but its high-octane pace combined with the summer conditions creates a battle of its own for the players.
Similar to teammate Tahuhu, Wyatt is comfortable in the WBBL’s schedule, which evokes the feeling of touring for a national team.
“It’s been actually like I’ve been on tour with England – play, rest day, train, play and do it again. So I’m quite used to it and I quite prefer it,” Wyatt added.
The Renegades now enter its series of matches against the Heat in Brisbane with a three-game winning streak.
Did the spike in games and lack of rest days post-Christmas help the Renegades establish a rhythm? Maybe. Did it match-harden the group? Possibly. You never quite know.
Or maybe the answer is something simpler.
“More so than anything it allowed us to stick to simple plans and put that out on the park consistently,” Tahuhu summated.