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Breaking boundaries a way of life for Alyssa Healy

March 08, 2020 17:43 IST
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Alyssa Healy is the latest in Australia's most storied cricketing lineage, with all the pluck and expectation that comes with it.

Alyssa Healy

IMAGE: Alyssa Healy hits a six during the ICC Women's T20 Cricket World Cup final against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

A young Alyssa Healy grew up batting in a backyard where hitting windows meant getting out. Now, she just breaks glass ceilings.

 

In the eighth over of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Final, Healy got stuck. She twice mistimed cuts off India spinners. As Rajeshwari Gayakwad straightened her line, 14 balls passed without a boundary.

Cue a shuffle down the wicket, Gayakwad's length nullified in two steps. Katy Perry's dancers would envy the footwork. Wide long-on cleared. The longest six of the T20 World Cup at 83 metres. Mind those windows, Midge.

This from a player who nearly gave up in 2017. The failure to win the T20 World Cup in 2016 and then the Cricket World Cup in 2017 sparked soul-searching in a squad, and in no-one more so than Healy.

"I could have easily walked away from the game and been happy with what I'd done and that I'd contributed to successful teams," she said at the time.

Alyssa Healy

IMAGE: Alyssa Healy celebrates after completing her half-century. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The numbers disagreed. The Gold Coast girl averaged 17.63 in T20Is before the 2017 summer, and 15.96 in ODIs. That was when a move up the order changed a career, a team, and a format with it.

Resilience is a recurring theme in her life, dealing with national attention since 2006 when the niece of Australian great Ian Healy became the first player to be picked to play among the boys in a private school competition in New South Wales.

It's not three weeks since Healy was sitting in Sydney Opera House fielding concerns over her form. With the highest strike-rate in T20Is since the start of 2019, risk is always at the back of her room, listening in.

The keeper-batter had a miserable tri-series with India and England in the build-up to the biggest month of her career. Four straight single-digit scores represented her worst run of form since 2013.

When she slapped to cover from the fifth ball of a dizzyingly final, dropped by Shafali Verma on nine, the 29-year-old must have felt like a fish out of water once again. And once again, she came out swinging.

In the 11th over, Healy smacked Shikha Pandey 70 metres over long-on. Then the blade arched back and struck a six over long-off to match. It was the next ball that got the MCG gasping for breath.

She took a slight shuffle towards the off-side seconds before the ball came down. It only took one step to make it work, opening up her body and all that power, throwing hands through the ball over cover for six.

"That's as good as you'll see -- male or female," cried Michael Clarke on commentary. It would be the last of Healy's 12 boundaries and while that was cause for disappointment, it also felt fitting.

After all the questions came the class and Healy can reflect on an incredible T20 World Cup. She was the only player to conquer the spiteful surface at Sydney Showground that saw India prevail on opening night.

Her all-Queensland partnership with Beth Mooney, the most productive ever at a single edition of the tournament, is like every good union in that it massages the other's weaknesses.

In the early overs, Mooney is all tip and run, sniffing out singles and finding gaps with surgical precision while Healy looks to clear the infield and get on top of the bowling.

Mooney says Healy makes her life easy, quite a statement for a person who has only recently spoken out about her struggles with anxiety and family problems running concurrent to a massive tournament.

"I never thought I'd experience anything like that," said Healy minutes after her dismissal. "We lapped up every moment and got ourselves off to a good start, you can't ask any more."

IMAGE: Alyssa Healy takes the catch to dismiss Shafali Verma off the bowling of Megan Schutt. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Healy is the latest in Australia's most storied cricketing lineage, with all the pluck and expectation that comes with it, while Mooney had to buy a dog to have the confidence to start talking to people.

Only Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine of New Zealand and England's Charlotte Edwards and Sarah Taylor have scored more fifties together than these two, fast forming one of women's cricket's enduring double acts.

One name will be on the lips of young boys and girls streaming down the banks of the Yarra, onto the platform at Flinders Street and back into their homes. Healy.

"I think the first ten years of my career probably did teach me a lesson about resilience and hanging in there," she says. "Hopefully the last couple of years of my career will be pretty good fun."

It's not looking too bad from here.

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