Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed,
So you can open one that leads you to the perfect road
The perfect road lead to the MCG on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2020.
After two weeks of an exhilarating tournament, and months of campaigning to #FillTheMCG and celebrate women in sport, the 2020 ICC T20 Women’s World Cup drew to a spectacular close at the MCG in front of a record breaking 86,174 strong crowd.
While the number fell agonisingly short of the world record organisers set out to achieve that would see the event break the all-time record for attendance to a women’s sporting event (the record of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final between the US and China still stands), it did break the record for attendance at a women’s cricket match and the Australian record for a standalone women’s sporting event. Both outstanding achievements.
The match also broke broadcasting records. A clear message sent that it’s not just, ‘if you build it, they will come’ when it comes to women’s sport, but if you invest, market and support—they will come in droves.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat. Openers Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney’s 115 run partnership electrified the crowd who were up and about after an uplifting International Women’s Day themed pre-match performance by Katy Perry.
Mooney’s batting performance was what we’d come to know and love from her this tournament, playing into her partner’s strengths, offering a sense of calm and taking fierce advantage when she needed to. She made a top score of 78 on the night and there was no doubt that she deserved her Player of the Tournament honour.
For the match though, it was all Healy. Making a sensational score of 75 in the space of 11.4 overs, Healy was back to her absolute best, and the crowd were right behind her from the beginning when she made a boundary on the first ball. Healy also caught the leading run-scorer for the tournament, India’s Shafali Verma, for 2. It was a catch that set the tone for India’s innings with Australia bowling them all out for just 99. The fans knew Healy was on and the committee agreed. The Player of the Match was all hers.
After coming under scrutiny for inconsistent and lacklustre performances leading into the tournament, Healy silenced her doubters, solidifying herself as an athlete who thrives on the big stage.
Their victory was resounding. A performance of a champion team, not just a team of champions. An injured Ellyse Perry watched on and her and Molly Strano were so beautifully proud of their teammates as they locked in the win they heartbreakingly couldn’t be part of.
We’ll cherish the vision of the World Champions singing and dancing with Katy Perry at the post-match concert, their medals bouncing around their necks glistening gold as they belted out ‘Firework’. And we’ll especially cherish watching Sophie Molineux own the stage.
Molineux may not have officially been awarded a player of the match medal, but she was clearly the player of the post-match in the eyes of fans. From showcasing her amazing dancing skills to allowing a young fan a photo with her medal, the young star, who had recently taken time away from cricket to focus on her mental health, was all class.
Cricket Australia need to be congratulated for their efforts in producing this event. What was created these past two weeks, and in the months leading up to the tournament, was sensational from all sides. We must acknowledge CA for the significant investment in marketing and advertising. For being bold and putting a challenge forward for themselves and for the nation to show up and support women’s sport. For working with other sporting codes and leveraging support from across the women in sport landscape. For bringing in an international superstar to perform and inviting women in sport heroines like the incomparable Billie Jean King to be part of this historic moment. Additionally, CA will now pay the gap for the athlete’s winnings. Making up the shortfall in prize money offered by the ICC between the women’s and men’s T20 World Cups.
But this tournament was about more than Sunday night. The group stages provided excellent cricket and entertainment leading up to ‘The Big Dance’. Though perhaps ‘the perfect road’ was not quite so, as rain wreaked havoc over some of the tournament, most notably over Sydney on the day of the semi finals. Fans were anxious all day and asking questions about reserve days and back up plans. The ICC denied Cricket Australia’s request for a contingency and as such, the semi final between India and England was abandoned, allowing India a passage to the World Cup final on points and breaking the hearts of England.
The sight of the devastated England side was gut-wrenching. Vision of the team sitting back, powerless to take the field and defend their opportunity to play in the Final was hard to watch. Sport (and the weather) is so brutal sometimes. England captain Heather Knight later called for future reviews of the tournament organisation to ensure this situation not happen again, her disappointment profound.
But the overwhelming narrative of the tournament was of joy and excitement. And in experiencing the world’s best in our backyard, we’ve come to learn so many amazing stories.
Like India’s Shafali Verma, just 16 and not just playing in a T20 World Cup but being the tournament’s most dangerous scorer. She used to pretend to be a boy, just so she could play. Her future is so bright. As is women’s cricket in India with so many other young stars in their side.
The Thailand cricket team played in their first ever T20 World Cup. They brought so much joy and spirit to the tournament and it was an absolute pleasure to watch them relish this opportunity to play the game they love. Their rain delay dance will become a thing of legend.
They are a nation to watch as cricket as a sport continues to develop in South-East Asia. If you missed it, Chloe Hart wrote an excellent profile of the team for ABC.
We saw a considerable boost in media coverage for women’s sport over the weekend which was due mostly to the attention that the final brought and Australia’s participation. Many have posited that this will be a turning point, that there will be a change in how we will view women’s sport. We can only hope.
For what we’ve really seen is a stellar example of what is possible when you invest time, money and resources into women’s sport. What is possible when those doors are no longer closed and that perfect road is open to everyone.
You just gotta ignite the light
And let it shine.