From Shreevatsa to Sydney: Indian-born Australian cricketer Lisa Sthalekar’s journey – The Indian Express

Lisa Sthalekar never had any desire to trace her biological parents or even visit the orphanage where she was left at after birth. “I had no questions, no curiosity because the family that adopted me gave me a wonderful life,” says the former international cricketer and commentator speaking to The Indian Express from Sydney.
Yet in 2012, when she walked into Pune’s Shreevasta orphanage inside Sassoon hospital, where she had been found at the doorstep soon after her birth on August 13, 1979, something within her stirred. “It was surprisingly overwhelming,” she admits.
She kept in touch with the authorities and returned last year for another visit. “I still don’t feel the need to know my biological parents, but it’s good to see the place from where I started my life and be thankful for the one I have today,” says the 44-year-old whose journey from that orphanage to becoming one of the world’s outstanding all-rounders is the stuff dreams and destiny are made of.
“I never had an issue with being adopted. I knew it all along. I was three-weeks-old when my adopted parents, who already had an adopted daughter, came looking for a son to the Pune orphanage to complete the family. Instead, they found me and that was it,” says Sthalekar.
Fate favours the benevolent and so it was that a series of small miracles enabled the Sthalekars- father Haren and English-born mother Sue- to obtain a passport for the baby in a matter of days. Her name was changed from Laila, as given by the orphanage, to Lisa and she flew back to the US to a whole new life.
After 18 months in the US and a short stint in Kenya, the family came to Australia to obtain an Australian passport for four-year-old Lisa, something that the rest of them possessed, and then decided to not go back at all.
As a young boy who grew up in Mumbai playing cricket at the Cricket Club of India (CCI), Haren was keen to induct Lisa into the game. “I was daddy’s little girl, ready to follow his footsteps,” smiles Stalekar. It started from their backyard and before she knew it, Lisa was enrolled in the Gordon Club in North Sydney from where she catapulted into the national women’s cricket team to become one of the most reputed figures in Australian women’s cricket.
A product of New South Wales, she made her ODI debut for Australia at the age of 21, starting primarily as a bowler who batted in the lower order. She then went on to become the first ever women cricketer to complete 1,000 ODI runs and take 100 wickets.
Later, Sthalekar captained the women’s team and brought many laurels for Australia like winning the World T20 tournament in 2012 and another World Cup title in 2013. In 2013, Lisa announced her retirement from active cricket.
Currently Sthalekar, who was also conferred with the Belinda Clarke award and inducted in Australia’s Hall of Fame, is a much sought-after commentator and the mentor for UP Warriors in the Women’s Premier League.
Having been to India many times for work and well-acquainted with both the men’s and women’s cricket teams, she gave the commentary for the first two weeks of this World Cup at the matches held in Ahmedabad, Delhi and Dharamshala, before flying back to Australia to follow the rest of the matches from Down Under.
Sometime ago, Sthalekar also harboured a keen desire to adopt a child from Shreevatsa , reveals Sharmila Sayed, administrative in-charge at the orphanage, who had greeted her with a ‘Welcome home’ banner and an aarti when she walked into the orphanage in 2012.
“Yes I did,” agrees Sthalekar. “But I was unable to because of a lack of adoption agreement between Australia and India. So right now, I have given up that thought. Also given my hectic travelling, lifestyle and age, it’s for the better.”
However, she does her bit now by being on the board of Adopt Change, an Australian organisation and working as its ambassador too.
Coming back to cricket and the final match of the World Cup between India and Australia on Sunday that she plans to watch with close friend Alyssa Healy, wife of Australian cricketer Mitchell Aaron Starc, she says, “It’s always great when the home team makes it to the finals and this is going to be a real blockbuster. I know India is the favourite but I would not discount the Australian team too, as they have been building up well. More than who’s going to win or lose, what I am hoping for is an exciting, nail-biting match that keeps you on the edge of your seat right down to the last ball.”
Sunanda MehtaSunanda Mehta is the author of The Extraordinary Life and Death of Sun… read more


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