Getting to know Ann Mitchell OAM

15 October, 2015

Ann Mitchell represented New South Wales 18 times before Team Managing the Australian side at two World Cups.

She was President of the International Women's Cricket Council from 1982-1988, and is a respected cricket journalist and commentator.

Could you provide a bit of insight into your playing career in NSW?

I started playing cricket for Sydney University when I started my Arts Course in 1962. I was practicing netball when I saw a woman, whom I learnt later was Mollie Dive, coaching a small group of women how to play cricket. I went over and asked if I could join and I was instantly snapped up to play for the university that weekend.

From that point on, I represented the university in grade cricket until 1970. I formed a separate club called Graduates together with friends, which merged with the Balmain male Cricket Club in 1983 and is now known as the Sydney Club.

Favourite grounds to play at?

My favourite grounds to play on were the University and Drummoyne Ovals in Sydney, which were the homes for my two clubs. Both these ovals have white picket fences around them and are surrounded by very scenic settings, which add to their appeal.

Favourite matches?

My most memorable game would have to be the National Championship game v Victoria (in 1970 I think it was) when NSW came to within 14 runs of beating the titleholders.

As a fast bowler with not much batting experience, I was in at No 11 batting with Patsy Fayne; I ended up running her out so that we fell short once again!

Favourite players to play with or against?

I enjoyed playing with Patsy because we formed an effective opening bowling partnership together - she with her consistent, good length medium outswing, and me with my more varied (some might say erratic!) speed bowling.

How did you combine you playing career with a work career?

I was lucky to be able to combine my playing career with my occupation as a high school teacher quite easily, as the National Championships were played during the summer break and I did not have to request leave. The only time I had trouble was as Manager of the Australian team to England in June-July of 1987 when I had to take my long-service leave and arrange a substitute teacher to take my classes.

You were the President of the IWCC (International Women's Cricket Council) 1982-1988 - What were some of the major developments you oversaw in your time with IWCC?

In 1977 I was first appointed as Manager of the Australian team and began a decade of touring internationally gaining a perspective on the women's game in other countries.

When I was elected President at the IWCC meeting during the World Cup in New Zealand in 1982, I was not in a position to change things quickly - as there was no money available to travel to speak to administrators in other countries. Together with Secretary Betty Butcher however, we improved communications to set up a climate for change for the future.

By the time of the 1988 World Cup in Australia we had increased membership with the Netherlands, Ireland and Sri Lanka. It was agreed that we would do everything to increase tours between members, and we would persevere with conducting a World Cup every 4 years, even though the members bore the brunt of financing the event.

You were awarded an OAM in 1991 for services to women's cricket - Congratulations - this would have been a proud moment for you?

It was a great thrill to get the news in 1990 that I was to be the recipient of an OAM in the Australia Day Honours in January 1991. At the time I hesitated about whether I should accept, because I believed that so many people deserved such awards and it is almost embarrassing to be picked out ahead of others. What swayed me to accept was the thought that no woman had received such an award before [in Australia, for cricket], so I accepted knowing that it was a recognition of the entire women's game.

What are the major areas of women's cricket that need to be improved to ensure our game remains at the forefront of women's sport?

The national scene for female cricketers looks very bright at the moment but I do have some grave concerns around club cricket, which is losing female members. Other countries are getting stronger and Australia must keep up by injecting resources into the grassroots level and ensuring that talent is identified and developed. The domestic competition needs to maintain its rivalry between states, which keeps standards high, and somehow we still need to provide the opportunity for female cricketers to play Test matches.

Have you been surprised by the success of the WBBL tournament and do you see this as the future of the women's game?

I was surprised by the success of the WBBL as I thought teams and the media needed that first season to get established, but it just shows the power of free-to-air commercial TV and the interest of the Australian public in exciting sport.

I have always maintained that the game for women simply needed exposure to the general public; the success of the WBBL last season is evidence of that. The T20 concept has taken off and seems to be what suits this generation, so administrators will have to use this form of the game to keep cricket at the forefront.

How has the ACA supported yourself in recent times?

I was thrilled when the ACA opened its membership to female cricketers about 4-5 years ago as I saw it to be another step towards equality in the game. I particularly enjoyed coaching with Alex Blackwell around the Mudgee District in NSW early last year and seeing the interest that was engendered among the young girls of the area. I have also been appreciative of the financial help with my medical bills and the ability to have someone at ACA to talk to.

© Australian Cricket Players Limited
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
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