Perry and Anisa pushing the boundary further for women cricketers

Marina Iqbal
New Update
Perry and Anisa pushing the boundary further for women cricketers

Ellyse Perry. ©ICC

As I joined the big stage of international cricket in 2009, the inaugural edition of the World Twenty20 in England was not even a month away. By then I knew of the players who ruled the stage, but as I started playing, especially in the mega event, I got to know about more big names. Being an opening batter, I had often heard about the accuracy of Ellyse Perry, the Australian allrounder. Everyone spoke about her smooth action, the pace and how to tackle it. We watched her videos to get a sense of her bowling, but when we saw her live at the ground it was a different picture altogether. She was running in and bowling some sharp bouncers. I had never seen a girl get so many bouncers in with good pace behind it. I was mesmerized.

I faced her for the first time after two years in a practice match, and that too with the old ball. I like pace, and it was a different challenge for me. Her steady run up and somewhat slow action is a deceiver as to what comes after it. I enjoyed the contest. Such a master craftsperson, it is not a surprise that Perry became the first Australian – male or female – to play 100 T20 Internationals when she took the field against India in the Group B World T20 game on Saturday (November 18).

Over the course of next few days, Anisa Mohammed, who has been playing for as long as anyone can remember, could feature in her 100th T20I for the Windies in the knockouts. I first saw her during my maiden trip to the Carribean in 2012. We had marked out their main players, and Anisa was the spin wizard. I was yet to face her, and she has a different bowling action – jumping at the start of her run up and then storming in. The most challenging thing about her is the pace and turn. She barely allows nothing to the batter to tackle with, and gives more air to the ball which helps it turn. Her consistent line and length make her stand out. She can bowl on the same spot all day long. We were all a bit clueless when it came to attacking her. She was on top of her game and destructive. It doesn’t come across in her personality, but she is a real fighter. Her statistics against all top teams is prominent, making her the only bowler with 100-plus wickets in T20Is followed closely by Perry, who is second on the list with 97 scalps.

Perry and Anisa, when she plays her next game, will join an illustrious list of players with 100 T20I appearances. England’s Jenny Gunn was the first – male or female – cricketer to reach the mark earlier this year during the triangular series in India in March, and since then Suzie Bates (New Zealand) and Deandra Dottin (Windies) have breached the barrier.

It is a real matter of pride to wear your country's jersey for the 100th time in any format. As kids, we all dreamt of playing for the country, but very few achieve it. And, fewer get to cross the boundary line for a 100th time for their country. They are role models in every sense, setting new benchmark for younger generation to aspire to.

All the names above are as passionate about the game as anyone or even more. Perry, for example, gave up a future as an international footballer for the love of cricket. From being a speedster to evolving as a batter and then becoming one of the best allrounders indicates her drive.

Recently I was in Malaysia as a commentator for Australia’s series against Pakistan where Perry played her 100th ODI. There I had a chat with Meg Lanning, and she spoke glowingly of her premier allrounder. The Southern Stars captain said that Perry is an inspiration and an amazing ambassador not only for Australia, but also for the sport itself – remember how she bowled Australia to the 2013 World Cup title in Mumbai with a broken toe.

By the time the World T20 ends, there will be at least 20 other players with more than 80 T20I appearances. It is a big number, and also indicates that the format, which began in 2004, has clearly evolved to enter the second stage.  With ICC keen to use T20Is to promote women’s cricket, partly driven by the success of Women’s Big Bash League in Australia and Kia Super League in England, things are only going to get busier from now on.

I don’t think when the first 50-over World Cup was played in 1973, anyone would have thought that women’s cricket would reach the same level of exposure as men’s cricket. Now not only most of the top teams have a professional setup with central contracts, but the sport stands on its own offering enough motivation, inspiration and entertainment.

A lot of credit obviously goes to Australia for taking some serious initiative to make cricket a professional sport, and England, New Zealand and India have not been far behind. Their domestic structure and the layouts for the women players are more or less on the same trails as their men. It has played a big role in the remarkable refinement of the game over the last four decades.

The shortest format in a span of 18 years has contributed significantly.

The ICC’s decision to start the 50-over Championship in 2013 indirectly allowed teams to schedule more T20I series between them, and it led to everyone having to find a way to improvise. While earlier it was all about accumulation, slowly aggression became the key word and teams were no more hesitant to experiment even if at times it came at a price. In a way the mindset of the players became more open, and that has resulted in more action in every sense. It can only be good for the game.