Former Australia cricketer Clea Smith feels that the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia will serve as an example of how far the women's game has come.
Speaking to Mel Jones at this week’s Road to the T20 World Cup podcast, Smith, alongside former team-mate Sarah Elliott, went back in time to discuss some of their own memorable cricketing experiences, reminiscing their 2010 T20 World Cup final, where Australia beat New Zealand by a mere three runs to defend 106 in the final.
“It was quite a famous last ball, where Ellyse Perry kicked it (the ball) with her foot,” Smith said, recalling the game at Bridgetown. “I can just picture and be back in that moment of standing at the deep boundary as that ball was bowled, and also some vivid [memories] from tours before, when Sophie Devine was absolutely smashing us. That was ten years ago, nothing’s changed.
“That was vivid, and I can close my eyes and go back at the moment, with the crowd and excitement.”
While Elliott vividly described the moment, Jones jokingly pointed out that Smith actually had to Google search the moment before the podcast.
“I couldn’t remember the year," Smith said. "The vision was vivid. With all the school yard, club cricket, state cricket, Aussie-level cricket Sarah and I played, that we both landed on that particular moment. It’s exactly the same moment: World Cup, 2010, Barbados, New Zealand.
“The whole game was a blur. My contribution hadn’t been particularly extraordinary. They needed four off it [the final ball], and Perry sticks her foot out to an absolutely creamed straight drive, and from that moment, it was never going to go for a four. It was everyone converging together in those big hugs. It’s not a cricket-specific [memory], but the coming together of the team was extraordinary.”
Now, less than four months removed from the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 final, which is set to be held on 8 March and is being billed as the biggest women’s cricket match ever, Smith believes that the grand spectacle in Melbourne could serve as an example of the spectacular growth of women’s cricket in recent times.
“I hope that it’s a moment in time that displays how far women’s sport has come, with women’s cricket being the vehicle for that conversation. If you think back, international cricket has been played in Australia since the 30s.
“It’s not new, but the progress across those decades, and then probably the shining of the spotlight on the last couple of years, since the time the three of us were young, people have retired is extraordinary. I think it's a chance to tell that story.”
The final, set to be held at the 92,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground on International Women’s Day, is expected to be a packed house. “It would be extraordinary," Smith said. "It’s very possible. It’s an aspirational possible goal, which is really powerful. Women’s sport keeps breaking its own records. What it demonstrates to me is that investment provides exposure, and exposure provides interest.
“This could all culminate in a 92,000-person packed MCG on International Women’s Day, showcasing hopefully what is one of the best Australian cricket teams we could ever put out. It’s the anticipation as much as anything that’s exciting.”
Competing in the tournament will be the Meg Lanning-led Australian women's team, touted to be one of the strongest units ever assembled. Having strung together a record 18 consecutive wins in October, the side seems to be on track to carry forward the legacy of the past. Elliott believes that the onus is on the other teams to match up to the world leaders.
"I think it’s right up there [among the best Australian teams]," Elliott said. "We had a really strong era, with [Cathryn] Fitzpatrick and [Belinda] Clark – that was a super dominant period. I think we are coming back to that sort of dominance now. We bust our guts and were at the top of our game, but these girls have taken it to a whole another level just with more time, more resources. It’ll be interesting to see how the other countries can come and match it.”