They are as ruthless as ever, but in the Caribbean, the Australians have appeared more easy-going than usual, more emotional too, writes Karunya Keshav.
“New glasses, new woman!” Alyssa Healy joked. Australia’s wicket-keeper opener might have turned up for the ICC Women’s World T20 semi-final sporting a new pair of spectacles and a black eye, but despite her assertions of change, not much really had.
It was her fourth time batting in the tournament, and it brought her a fourth Player of the Match award.
Healy is a happy camper on most days, but after the semi-final against the Windies on Thursday, 23 November, a wide grin rarely left her face. Not only had Australia made the final, but she knew she was lucky to feature in the match given the concussion she suffered after colliding with Megan Schutt going for a catch in the previous match.
Once the team knew there was not much to worry about, the jokes began at her expense. Schutt, we hear, was “a bit disappointed” that she wasn’t the one who came out of that clash looking tough. Yet, given everything that happened, when Healy went for a similar catch in the Windies game, everyone watching would have held a collective breath.
“She put her arms up and did a bit of a helicopter to say ‘no one get in my space’. I was quite close to the ball, and so was Rachael Haynes, and we made sure we stood back and let her take it,” laughed Sophie Molineux later.
The delight when the skyer landed safely in her large gloves was all too evident for the wicket-keeper, and she celebrated, arms aloft.
“I was more excited because in the Ashes last year, [I] dropped two in a row at night-time. I'm never too confident under that high ball. But, look, new glasses, new woman!” Healy said.
A few overs earlier, another particularly exuberant celebration had come from Ellyse Perry. Bowling the third over, she got one to nip back and left Deandra Dottin chopping it onto her stumps. Letting out a roar, she took off from her follow through, leaping and racing to cover.
Earlier today, @EllysePerry overtook @SAfridiOfficial, moving into second place overall for international T20 wickets. Her next scalp (which she has a chance to take in Saturday's @WorldT20 Final) will be No. 💯! #WT20 pic.twitter.com/m0OEj9u6S8— ICC (@ICC) November 23, 2018
“She certainly loves a big moment, that’s for sure!” said Haynes. “For her to get such a big wicket in a critical part of the game, it wasn’t really surprising but it was uplifting for the team.”
“Yeah, I haven't seen Pez [Perry celebrate] like that too much!” agreed Healy. “It just really showed what that win meant to this group!”
And it wasn’t just these two players. Australia were animated on the field, with emotions running high, showing off a 'human' side to a clinical team.
The three-time World T20 champions have the reputation of being ruthless. Often, there is so little that cracks the masks. But in this tournament, the Caribbean influence seems to have seeped in, and they appear more easy-going – not only on the field, but in the mind. There is almost a sense of wonder, which they aren’t trying to hide behind game faces.
That they are the No.1 side on the MRF Tyres ICC Team Rankings in ODIs and T20Is, but don’t currently hold any titles, has lent a humility and not just a hunger to their game. They’ve been DJs to young school kids, gone touristing on the beaches and rainforests and found good coffee – conscious of going about their business without being consumed by the results. They keep reminding themselves that it is a privilege to be where they are and they can’t take anything for granted, so they’ll enjoy the successes.
“I’m still pinching myself that I’m here in a World Cup, and get to play in the final – and that’s the feeling in the whole squad,” said Molineux. “There are a lot of young girls experiencing this for the first time. And contrasting to that, we’ve got a lot of the girls who have played [the 50-over] World Cup … The general feel throughout that squad is that we can’t take anything for granted.”
“I'd be lying if I sat here and said we haven't got scars after the last couple of World Cups,” said Healy. “To be ranked No.1 in the world and not have a trophy is something we are looking to rectify. So for us to go out there and execute exactly what we wanted to do, it's really pleasing … It's such a proud win. And I think everyone deserves to be emotional and really happy about it.”
All of Healy, Haynes and Molineux agreed the semi-final win was on the most special in their careers. And while it was “somewhat of a blur”, the team was building to something special. There was, after all, another big final to go to keep the smiles and celebrations going.
“There's a bit of an aura around this group at the moment,” said Healy. “And there's just something really special building and, look, we've got one more huge game to go. And you know we'll be disappointed if we can't get over the line no matter our opponent. But this is just a really special feeling about the group at the moment.”