“If you get a call from a strange Australian man, just know it’s someone calling from Australia,” Maia Bouchier’s Southern Vipers coach asserted just a few minutes before she got a dream call from down under.
Yes, a dream call. Isn’t it what we call it when we get what we have desired for a long and long time. Years of crusades, a couple of heartbreaks, lagging and standing up against it is what makes a sportsperson stand different from others and that’s exactly how one can define England’s 22-year-old Maia Bouchier’s cricket journey.
The English cricketer who made her county debut for Middlesex in 2014 against Warwickshire got a maiden call up from England national team in August earlier this year. The Southern Vipers’ regular feature was on a roll in the domestic circuit and the national selectors decided to award her places in the national team.
And just 27 days after the national team call up, the Kensington-born received a call from Australia. A call that she couldn’t have ever imagined receiving. Maybe it was too big a dream to come true for her.
Bouchier’s phone rang as her Southern Vipers’ coach confided her but the English woman was clueless as to what and who it was on the other side. She picked the call, and it was Jarrad Loughman on the other end. Yes, Jarrad Loughman, the Melbourne Stars head coach.
“I was just sitting there completely gobsmacked that I was getting this phone call,” Bouchier told The Cricketer.
“I usually prepare for these things, write down things I want to ask, and I was not prepared at all,” she added.
“It came at a great time. We’d just come off The Hundred, reaching the final, I’d made my England debut and then that phone call… I was happy to even be considered for the Big Bash because it’s been my dream for a long time.”
Was she dreaming? No. Is she, finally going to live her dream? Yes.
Making a debut for your national team and getting a WBBL contract the same year, isn’t what a 22-year-old can think of. But as they say “Hard work pays off.”
Bouchier’s hard work paid off when she heard those 3 words from Melbourne Stars’ coach, that is, “We want you.”
While the world is in awe of her, the story of Maia Bouchier has been a roller-coaster one.
Making her debut in 2014 for Middlesex, she became one of the extensively talked-about cricketers of her time. The 3/24 she took on her debut remains her List A best bowling figure. Yes, she used to ball too. Occasionally but impressively. Following her glorious season in 2014, she became a regular face for her side from 2016.
Then comes 2018, the zenith point of her domestic career as she emerged as Middlesex’s leading run-scorer in the Championship, with 172 runs at an average of 34.40 and as icing on the cake, her team won the Twenty20 Cup the same year.
She also featured in the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield in season 2017/18 for Auckland and ended it on high as she went on to score 278 runs in the competition at an average of 45.50 with the help of two half-centuries.
Now as they say “once you have tasted the taste of sky you’ll forever look up” and that’s exactly what Bouchier was gazing at in 2019 when she moved to Hampshire in the Twenty20 cup.
Coming off a successful year in 2018, she had a remarkable first season with the Hampshire club as she smashed two half-centuries in that season and ended it as the side’s highest run-scorer in the Twenty20 Cup.
That’s it? Well, Not yet. The best was yet to come from her bat and it did when she played for Southern Vipers in the Women’s Cricket Super League in 2018 and 2019.
The road that was first looking hard to take, was now supervising her to a beautiful destination.
She played all 11 matches for Southern Vipers in 2019, banged 114 runs overall in the season and helped them reach the Finals. She continued playing for Southern Vipers in the 2020 Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and went on to smash 195 runs at an average of 32.50 in the 2021 season of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
However, as success comes, so do obstacles. October 2020 was one such month for her as she was suspended from bowling due to an illegal elbow extension in her action, and asked to undergo remedial work. The things took time but fell into place as she was cleared to resume bowling in competitive cricket in July 2021.
Clubs, countries and franchises all over the world started keeping notes of her and surprisingly she got a call from The Hundred, the all-new format league, inaugurated by ECB earlier this year. She played for Southern Brave in The Hundred and was instrumental in taking Southern Brave to the finals of the tournament, scoring 92 runs with a strike rate of 143.75. Impressive, eh?
Well, impressive enough to give her a maiden call up for the national team soon after the conclusion of The Hundred.
However, Bouchier failed to make it to the first WT20I match of the three-match series as she was identified as a possible COVID-19 contact and later made her WT20I debut in the next match, on 4 September 2021, for England against New Zealand, scoring 25 from 24 balls. She went on to play the final match of the series as England secured a 2–1 victory.
Currently, she is playing for Melbourne Stars in Women’s Big Bash League 2021 and is sharing a dressing room with international stars like Annabel Sutherland, Meg Lanning, Elyse Villani and Tess Flintoff. As long as her numbers are concerned, the 22-year-old has accumulated 135 runs so far in the tournament with 42 being her highest till now.
“When I heard Meg Lanning and Elyse Villani was part of the Melbourne Stars I was a bit starstruck,” she confessed in an interview with The Cricketer ahead of the commencement of WBBL 2021.
“I’ve dreamed of playing in the Big Bash and I’ve dreamed of playing with and against the international Aussies. It will be great to see them train and how they go about it, to listen to Meg, and to play against the greats like Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy.”
“It’s quite scary for me because I’ve always watched Ellyse Perry bat and bowl. She’s always been a role model because she’s the ultimate allrounder. I’m scared to go and play against her – good scared. I want to go and smash her if I can! I’m still a bit nervous to get going.”
The 22-year-old has the ability to send the ball over the ropes at will, especially against fuller deliveries. She does struggle a bit under pressure, but, her career has only just begun.
Moreover, Maia Bouchier has all the time on her hands to improve her game. And the environment and experience she is getting in Australia, it is not wrong to say, will only help finetune her game and do well in the upcoming years.