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Kimmince's comeback a breath of fresh air

30 July 2018
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After riding the rollercoaster of elite sport for more than a decade, Kimmince learned one life-changing lesson: cricket isn't everything

A year ago Delissa Kimmince decided she'd better start giving some serious thought to life after cricket. A playing career doesn't last forever, after all, and at 28 years old, the Queenslander was looking at the long term.

She hadn't played for Australia since being ruled out of the 2015 Ashes due to injury, and her national contract was not renewed the following year.

So she started a cleaning business – the kind of job that the Fire and Heat-contracted allrounder could fit in around cricket commitments.

"Playing for Australia again wasn't on my list of things to do," Kimmince told cricket.com.au. "I thought my time in the green and gold had been and gone.

"I was preparing for life after cricket, not knowing how long I had left, so I started the house cleaning business to work in and around the semi-professional nature of our state contracts.

"My main focus was just to enjoy my cricket playing for Queensland and the Heat. I never thought I'd be wearing the green and gold again."

Then, last November, the call came from chief national selector Shawn Flegler.

***

The time leading up to November 2017 wasn't Kimmince's first period out of the Australian team. Success came early for the allrounder from Warwick and she made her international debut aged 18 against New Zealand in March 2008.

She toured New Zealand and played in a World Cup on home soil in 2009, a tournament where the hosts, who were also the defending champions following their 2005 triumph in South Africa, largely failed to fire and lost their third-place playoff to India.

Kimmince made her debut against New Zealand in 2008 // Getty
Kimmince made her debut against New Zealand in 2008 // Getty

Kimmince played two matches in that tournament – and wouldn't be seen in an Australia team for another five years.

Struggling with confidence, Kimmince knew something had to give.

"I hated cricket, basically," she recalls. "I didn't want to be there. For anyone who has worn the green and gold, it's such an honour but for me at that point, I hated it.

"I didn't want to wear the colours. I rejected an Australian contract. Belinda Clark rang me and said, 'Do you want it?'

"I said, 'No, give it to someone who is willing to put in the effort you're asking of them. At the moment that's not me.'"

Suddenly coming to grips with life without cricket, Kimmince followed the path countless young Australians had trod before her.

"I walked away and went and lived in England," she says. "I did the typical thing, living and working in a pub over there and just tried to escape cricket as much as I could.

"I was lost, to be honest. I didn't know who I was outside of cricket. It was all I'd ever done, my friends were my cricket friends, I didn't know where I wanted to be or what I was doing.

"Being away from your family and friends, you do have to find yourself pretty quickly."

It was there, far from home, teammates and friends, Kimmince found herself irresistibly drawn back to the game she'd walked away from.

"I ended up playing cricket over there, which is pretty funny," she says with a laugh. "At the time I thought I'd made a mistake going over there, but sometimes your biggest mistakes can be your best mistakes.

"I found a love for cricket again over there."

Kimmince runs in during the 2009 World Cup // Getty
Kimmince runs in during the 2009 World Cup // Getty

Returning home, Kimmince found her way back into club cricket. It wasn't meant to be serious – instead, she relished the freedom that came from playing the game she still loved, without the pressure to perform on the international stage.

"I had one of the best seasons I'd ever had, purely because there were no expectations, I didn't really care.

"I think when you play carefree cricket, you play your best."

It started out carefree enough, but Kimmince is talented, very talented, and it was only a matter of time before Queensland took notice.

She returned to the Women's National Cricket League for the 2012-13 season and in 2014, was recalled to the Australian team.

***

In July 2015, Kimmince had re-established herself in Australia's T20 line-up and was preparing for one of the biggest events on the calendar: an away Ashes tour. Her teammates were already in the United Kingdom and well on their way to reclaiming the coveted trophy on foreign soil for the first time since 2001, having won two of three ODIs and the Test in the multi-format series.

But before she could join them, Kimmince suffered a serious back injury.

"I couldn't move," she explained. "(Head coach) Matthew Mott was giving me until the Thursday to prove I was fit, but I rang him on the Monday and said I couldn't even see past the plane flight.

"I couldn't sit down for more than 20 minutes, I had to lie in the fetal position. I had a tear across the ligament that runs down spine and it was the most painful thing I've ever had.

"Every morning I woke up and thought, 'Is this what it's going to be life for the rest of my life?' So I ruled myself out."

After six weeks off, she carried the injury through the domestic summer, captaining Brisbane Heat in the inaugural season of the Rebel Big Bash League. But it took its toll on her form.

Kimmince skippered the Heat through WBBL|01 // Getty
Kimmince skippered the Heat through WBBL|01 // Getty

"From there, I lost my Aussie contract. It was a bad way to lose it," she said.

Mentally exhausted after that first, long summer of the WBBL, Kimmince felt the need for another break nagging at her.

She didn't want to quit cricket, but knew herself well enough to know something had to change.

A chance conversation with friend Kate McCarthy, who plays Australian Rules football in Brisbane, provided the answer.

"I was mentally fried," Kimmince said.

"I said to Andy Richards, our coach at the time, 'I need to go away and play something else, just to feel fresh when I come back'.

"I knew Kate McCarthy, who plays for the Lions in AFLW, she invited me down for a kick.

"I'd always wanted to play AFL but my mum never let me, so I went down and had a kick and I was okay, and it went from there.

"(Brisbane AFLW coach) Craig Starcevich rang me a few times and asked me about my intentions, but I always said, "I'm a cricketer, I'm doing this as a break from cricket'."


Nonetheless, Kimmince was signed to the Brisbane Lions for the first ever season of AFLW and after the 2016-17 WNCL season and WBBL|02 were complete, she had a second taste of being a part of history – this time with the oval ball.

"It was special to be part of the first WBBL and then AFLW as well," she said.

"It was nice to be a part of those big game-changers in women's sport. I only played one game for the Lions, but being part of the group was pretty special and something I'll never forget."

***

After riding the rollercoaster of elite sport for more than a decade, Kimmince has learned one life-changing lesson: cricket isn't everything.

The ability to enjoy her sport and resist the temptation to place unrealistic expectations on herself – while retaining her innate competitive edge – has seen the Queenslander mature into one of the cooler, calmer heads in the Australian squad.

Last year, she believed her international career was behind her. But Australian selectors had other thoughts, recalling seam-bowling allrounder for the T20 potion of last summer's Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes.

"I was surprised, because we hadn't been playing T20 cricket at that time," she explained.

"I was a little bit taken aback. But I think I've learned to relax and just enjoy my time in that set up now a little more, rather than the amount of pressure I put on myself when I first made it."

Kimmince catches Taylor short with direct hit

A spot in Australia's 20-over squad for the tour of India followed, then the offer of an Australian contract for 2018-19.

This time, Kimmince wasn't saying no. But she's keeping the cleaning business.

"I've dropped back a lot of my clients and just kept a couple, but it's been really pleasing that Cricket Australia has been really supportive.

"Especially Flegs (Flegler) and Mott, they said, 'Even if you just keep one client, you're obviously in a good place'.

"It does take my mind off cricket for a few hours here and there and for me that works.

"At times you can overthink cricket, we always say it's a simple game but we overcomplicate it.

"Sometimes you do constantly think and analyse all the time, so even if it's just a few hours away from cricket to clean someone's house, that takes my mind away from cricket, and the expectations and pressure of what we think we have to achieve."

Back in gold: Kimmince during the 2017 Ashes // Getty
Back in gold: Kimmince during the 2017 Ashes // Getty

And despite what she thought about her prospects, Southern Stars head coach Matthew Mott revealed she was never that far from the minds of selectors.

"She was probably unlucky a few years ago when she had those back issues (and) her domestic performances have always been strong," Mott told cricket.com.au.

"But she was definitely always on our radar and always talked about. But others were getting opportunities ahead of her.

"I think she brings a real calmness to the team, having been in and out of the game, it's like her second coming.

"She has a great perspective on cricket, she loves the game and sends a great message about playing the game for the right reasons and loving it.

"I find her really refreshing around the group."

A key period looms for the Australian team: a World T20 in the Caribbean this summer, an away Ashes and then another World T20, this time on home soil, in early 2020.

Kimmince was part of Australia's 2014 World T20 win // Getty
Kimmince was part of Australia's 2014 World T20 win // Getty

There's never been a better time to be part of Australia's 20-over side and Kimmince is determined to help her team reclaim the title they surrendered to West Indies at the 2016 tournament.

"It's exciting to be part of it again and we've got a team to achieve really good things.

"I don't put too much pressure on myself because I know I play my best when I'm more relaxed.

"The next year is a very exciting so hopefully I can keep fit and keep performing.

"I am competitive and I do get annoyed when we lose, but at the end of the day there are a lot of worse things you could be doing. There's a lot of shitty jobs out there compared to playing a game with the people you love being around.

"I've had the ups and downs, I'd ridden the rollercoaster a few times, but now I'm very grateful for the opportunity I have back in the Aussie set-up, a privilege I never thought I'd have again."

Commonwealth Bank T20I series v NZ 

September 29: First T20I, North Sydney Oval, Sydney

October 1: Second T20I, Allan Border Field, Brisbane

October 5: Third T20I, Manuka Oval, Canberra

Commonwealth Bank ODI series v NZ 

February 22: First ODI, WACA Ground, Perth

February 24: Second ODI, Karen Rolton Oval, Adelaide

March 3: Third ODI, Junction Oval, Melbourne

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Filed Under

Australia Women

Delissa Kimmince

CommBank T20 Series v NZ

Women's World T20 2018