'Proud westie' Strano relishes dream debut
February 18, 2017
Rookie Southern Stars spinner enjoys cult following after impressing against NZ at the MCG
It's not that long a trip from Werribee’s Galvin Park in Melbourne's western suburbs to the city's home of cricket, the MCG.
Report & Highlights: Southern Stars thump NZ to take series lead
But for Victorian spinner Molly Strano, it’s been a long journey to the point where she fulfilled a lifelong dream on Friday by making her Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars debut in their T20 international clash against New Zealand.
The 24-year-old was one of three debutants in Australia’s convincing 40-run win at the MCG, alongside New South Wales allrounder Ashleigh Gardner and South Australia's Amanda-Jade Wellington.
"To be able to make your international debut on your home deck is something you dream of," Strano said.
"(It's) just absolutely amazing to be able to soak it all up and enjoy some time in the sun and have my parents in the crowd cheering me on.
"It was a dream come true.
"When I was 18 or 19, I fell out of love with the game a little bit and wasn’t enjoying my cricket too much. I went over to the UK and that really reignited my love for the game and I came back and just really enjoyed my time at Victoria and with the Melbourne Renegades.
"I think there's a strong correlation between enjoying your cricket and going well.
"I’ve been lucky to have a good couple of seasons on the trot now and I'm just loving my time in the green and gold."
For the past two seasons, Strano has been dominant for the Renegades in the Rebel Women's Big Bash League, collecting 39 wickets to sit second on the all-time wicket-takers list, behind only Sydney Sixers quick Sarah Aley (47).
Not bad for someone who described herself as a "specialist fielder" just a couple of years ago, when Strano was a batter and medium-pace bowler for the VicSpirit before making the switch to off-spin.
And it's even more impressive given she missed the first half of the 2015-16 summer due to stress fractures in her back and only returned on the eve of the inaugural WBBL season.
A haul of 21 wickets at an average just under 15 in WBBL|02 prompted a call from the Australian selectors.
"It has taken a lot of hard work but I enjoy it all," Strano said.
"I’ve had a little taste (of international cricket) now and I’ve absolutely loved it, so hopefully I can hang around now for as long as I can.
"I’m only around for the T20 tour so I’m going to make a real effort to enjoy these last couple of games and last couple of days with the girls before they shoot off to New Zealand."
It didn’t take long for the debutant to have an impact with the ball on Friday; she claimed the wicket of her Renegades’ skipper Rachel Priest inside the power play having earlier received her cap from fellow spinner Kristen Beams on the MCG turf, surrounded by teammates and family.
"That’s why you ... play cricket," she said.
"You play to make your parents and your family proud. Especially my Nan, she’s had a massive impact on my career.
"I play cricket to make her proud and I loved having her out on the ground for my cap presentation."
It hasn’t taken long for Strano to earn the same affection from fans either.
Another Werribee product, popular former Test quick Merv Hughes, had a way with the crowd and Strano has already attracted a support cast at Renegades matches and even had a crew chanting her name during yesterday’s game.
Her debut is also the latest in what’s been a big couple of years for Melbourne’s outer western suburbs, with West End Redbacks seamer Daniel Worrall also making his international debut and Victoria Bushrangers opener Travis Dean representing Australia A.
"I’m a really proud 'westie'," Strano said.
"I love to be able to fly the flag for the western suburbs and my regional team Western Spirt as well. I’m really proud to come through that program.
"My parents are under strict instructions not to cheer too loud for me, because I get a bit embarrassed. I think they were my club teammates up there (making noise).
"I’ve got a few little fans and I don’t know how I’ve managed to do that.
"I just classify myself as a bit of a village cricketer. Sometimes I like to have a joke around and have a bit of fun with my cricket, and sometimes that resonates with the crowd.
"I think they just like to see people enjoying their cricket as well."
Australia will play their second T20I in Geelong on Sunday and given Strano’s close connection to the area – she attended school in Geelong – she could well have an even more vocal cheer squad at Kardinia Park.