Alyssa Healy And The Charm Of Being The Underdog

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Any Australian fan watching the semi-final featuring the hosts, West Indies, and Australia would’ve  loved the way Rachel Haynes turned a corner, coming in with the big hits from the lower order.

Her 25 off 15 was timely and laced with aggressive intent.

Eventually, the Aussies would hop to a competitive 142 that eventually proved too tough for the Windies to chase down.

But just imagine would that score have reached where it did had it not been for Alyssa Healy contributing, once again vitally, a 38-ball-46?

In a game where Mooney departed early and captain Lanning took time to settle down, Australia were guided well, once again, by a batswoman, who hasn’t really faltered in the last quarter of an year.

It wasn’t just that big heaves defined Alyssa Healy. That gorgeous late-cut on Afy Fletcher and some nimble hits down the on side made Healy every bit as dangerous in the nuanced departments of batting too.

It’s hard to take your mind off the game when the right-hander occupies the crease.

Cricket loves a great talent.

But quite like its fondness for nicknames, it also likes to find a connection between players.

For instance, if you were to peek into the sport’s (fictional) diary, you’d find the following as an entry:

“Is there a commonality?  I’ll readily throw in a few adjectives.”

If it turns out that one’s related to someone popular: an achiever, then bouquets of respect turn into frequent garlands.

We have seen that in the case of the Flower brothers. We’ve seen that in the case of the two West Indian Bravos.

We’ve seen the hype in the case of Gavaskar and Vishwanath, both related, by family and by the same jersey.

But having said that, we have fortunately evaded a similarity of occurrence in the Women’s game.

What’s your take on Alyssa Healy?

Absolutely unlike that untenable kid who needs to be looked after who needs to be hand-held inside a shopping complex, Healy is fierce, very clear about her game, and driven to succeed.

It’s a surname that’s popular and very Australian in every context. But at the same time, it can do pretty well by merely offering the forename.

Not Mrs. Mitchell Starc, not Ian Healy’s relative; she’s just Alyssa Healy.

The sum of the parts don’t make up the whole. She, herself, is the complete picture.

No visiting cards needed.

If ever, then a simple rewind to any characteristic whip over square leg suffices.

To most from the opposition camp, facing Alyssa Healy can remind one of the perils of bowling short or at good length.

Spinner, fast bowler, orthodox bowler, death-over specialist, it doesn’t quite matter what or who comes to greet Australia’s wicket-keeping batswoman.

They’re all received mightily well; they are all extended the same treatment, of the kinds we grew used to expecting of one of Healy’s compatriots; Adam Gilchrist. In fact, add Hayden’s name to the list.

Bad ball- hit it. Good ball- try to hit it anyway.

Yet the abstinence from mindless hitting is what defines Alyssa Healy; just as well as a quick glimpse into what she’s amassed in her last 8 inning as 2018 draws to a close:

53, 56 not out, 48, 7, did not bat, 67 not out, 6, 59, 97

So why’s there this charm about Alyssa Healy and also a bit of a strangeness in the sense that she’s not written about as much as a Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Suzie Bates or Ellyse Perry?

Of course, Healy isn’t the game’s most promising batswoman there is.

If you have to score 200 on a day’s final session, you know who to turn to. But, you’d immediately look away if you had to score 150 with only 2 wickets to go.

You won’t cherish the idea of disconsolate shoulders in the Aussie camp, one revered for its ferocity of competing and for bringing to the game, absolute excellence.

Even as rash shots don’t define her, Alyssa Healy isn’t the game’s best brand ambassador of playing defensively or attentively.

Most of the times, it’s her own self-manufactured faults that see to her downfall –  not so much about being beaten by raw pace or being outfoxed by the flight.

Still, something stands out.

There are batswomen who love to protect their wickets and stay longer for the impact. Picture Mithali Raj, Meg Lanning, Amy Satterthwaite and others.

There are batswomen who play according to an age-old adage: you live by the sword, you die by it.

You know where to put Healy- 1300 plus T20 runs, 8 fifties, a strike rate approaching 125, a highest score of 90- when you visit both contrasting approaches.

On most days, you can be sure that Australia are in safe hands when Healy gets off to a flyer, of the kinds she helped form against New Zealand, Ireland and Pakistan.

But on most other days, yours won’t be the happiest pair of teeth if a quick wicket has already fallen and Healy’s too falls with the belligerent right-hander playing a wild stroke too many.

Yet, it’s this urgency about her game, the ability to score quickly and the failure to break into any kind of sweat that makes this uncomplicated and cheery Australian truly worth her salt.

In hindsight, her absence from the game against India (World T20 in West Indies) could point to where the Aussies lost it – apart from poor, directionless bowling of course.

Yet, that she won’t ever be extended the kind of respect you see Harmanpreet, Stafanie Taylor or Sana Mir showered with. But with batswomen like her, sometimes their charm exists in the fact that they’re overlooked.

In the end, quite like Harsha said of Sachin’s absence from the list of century-makers at Lord’s, if Alyssa Healy hasn’t been that widely represented in mainstream media, whose loss is it?







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