Friday, December 8, 2023

Alyssa Healy went from ‘didn’t want anything to do with cricket’ to being ‘doomed to the game, forever’

Must read

“It is quite bizarre to think that I wouldn’t have played the game,” she concedes. A scary alternate reality. Alyssa Healy. Top scorer in the 2020 T20 World Cup final. Top scorer in the 2022 ODI World Cup, and the final. The big match player, almost didn’t take to cricket.

“I definitely didn’t want to buy it early on, I just wanted to go and play with my friends. I didn’t want anything to do with cricket,” she tells The Indian Express.

“Funnily enough. Cricket has been this one constant throughout my life.” Healy speaks for her younger self that saw Uncle Ian play for the national side and Father Greg don the Queensland colors. “All the boys that I grew up with were playing cricket. So even when I wasn’t playing, it was some sort of constant throughout my life. Once I started playing, it was always there in the summer. Whether it be with the boys, or at the school, rep teams and then next minute I was playing for Australia. And then, I ended up marrying a cricketer as well…I guess I’m doomed to the game, forever,” she laughs.

So much so that at home now, she is the one who starts the cricket conversations, ‘because I love talking about it’. Alyssa Healy and Mitchell Starc. The first pair in the game to have won World Cup player of the tournament awards. There’s a full circle they’ve shared. One that Healy recalls fondly. “I was over here when Mitch played for RCB (in the IPL). For two years.” Cut to 2023 and she is now leading UP Warriorz in the inaugural season of the Women’s Premier League. “We’ve had that same conversation, ‘Our’s is just as exciting.’ Because it’s brand new and because women’s cricket is growing so exponentially. He also wants to be here and be a part of it.”

“The girls have been really welcoming of me and all the other international players into Indian cricket, that’s how I’d like to put it. And we’ve been waiting for a long time to be welcomed in,” the UP skipper adds on her WPL experience so far. “Everybody around the world, whether you are involved or not, can see that this is a life changing moment for a lot of cricketers. It’s going to put pressure on other boards and other organizations to maintain pace with what’s happening over here. What the men’s IPL has continued to grow into over the years, adding more teams and more players…you can see that the WPL is going to do exactly the same thing.”

Alyssa Healy scored 170 against England in the 2022 ODI World Cup final, becoming the first batter to score 150 or more in a World Cup final. (ICC/Twitter)

There’s another, almost complete parallel between the two Indian franchise leagues and Healy. She was also among those at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore for the first ever IPL game back in 2008, watching Brendon McCullum break the shackles and smash 158 off 73 deliveries. Against RCB. On Friday night at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai, Healy almost went on to become the first WPL centurion. Staying unbeaten at 96 off 47 deliveries as the runs to chase ran out. Against RCB.

A classic Alyssa Healy innings where she took off midway through the chase, scoring her fifty off 29 deliveries, adding the next 46 inside 17. 139 runs chased within 13 overs. “When you say it like that, maybe I was in a bit of a hurry. In chases like that, you don’t want to leave it to the 18th-19th over. You’d rather get it done sooner than later. When the ball started finding the middle of the bat, I thought we should just cash in.”

With one run separating her side from a 10 wicket win and five, from a historic triple figure score, the opener advanced down the track and went for a heave but could only connect it well enough for a single to deep mid wicket. Looking back at it a day later, she agrees there was a slight grrr that followed. “Last ball was genuinely a free hit to try and hit a six. To see if I could do it. And I unashamedly went for it.”

Despite having quite a few envy-of-the-world milestones to her name, Healy adds that she doesn’t plan on them. Just like she didn’t on April 3, 2022 as she ran through a barrage of batting records, becoming the first in cricket to score 150 plus in a World Cup final. Satisfying? “I think I was lying on the change room floor for a solid half an hour after the whole game. I was absolutely knackered.”

She recalls, “There was a lot of talk going into the game about the (Nat Sciver) Brunt-Healy matchup. How many times she’s got me out. My record against England. Whatever it might have been. For me, to go and just park all that aside. To just do my business. It was a really pleasing moment for me in my career. Probably looks great for the record books but I think for me it was just really good to know that I could contribute when the team relied on me.”

All started after the 2017 WC

While she has played a crucial role in the unparalleled success of the Australian women’s cricket team over the last half decade, Healy’s career shifted gears after the 2017 ODI World Cup. Having made her debut for Australia in 2010, she had batted across seven different positions (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th) in white ball cricket.

Healy, India Vs Australia Alyssa Healy in action for Australia during a T20I. (File)

Averaging 15.96 in the ODIs until the 2017 summer. After which, the think tank proposed her a permanent role at the top of the order. One that changed more than her batting average (almost 50 since) and her technical play.

“I probably portray this fearless cricketer that goes out there and takes on the opposition. Plays with this ultra form of confidence but for a lot of my career, I didn’t have a lot of self confidence in what I was doing. I was watching Meg Lanning make her ODI debut, make a hundred on her debut and I can’t hit ’em off the square on the other end. I was watching all these things happen to the players I grew up with. International cricket was seemingly so easy for them and they just fit in really quickly. And for me, it was a real struggle to find my feet. For me, that conversation after the 2017 World Cup was really just about contributing to what was already a pretty successful team. To have that vote of confidence from the skipper, from the coach, from my teammates kind of just reinvigorated me as a cricketer.”

In her avatar as a swashbuckling opener, the Australian keeper batter has earned the reputation to clear the boundary ropes on a consistent basis. Coming into the WPL, it’s been made easier for her to do so. The boundary lengths for the inaugural season have been trimmed to a maximum of 60m, five metres less than what it was during the recently-concluded Women’s T20 World Cup played in South Africa. “I think they’re quite short but it’s probably just figuring out what sort of product they want to have for this WPL.”

For Healy, bucket loads of boundaries don’t always make for the best T20 contests as opposed to some of the low scoring affairs. “When you are chasing something like 210, it’s just a whackathon.”

She has an alternate suggestion. “A potential rule change could be, go to five out. We play with four fielders outside the ring after the six overs. There’s always that fifth pocket that a lot of players in the world game can now exploit. If you are going to leave the boundaries that short, people are going to clear them anyway. So why not put the fifth fielder out. Makes it a little bit more challenging. It means that if you are going to hit the boundary, you are going to need to hit a six or hit it in the pocket.”

Latest article