‘Beyond The Boundary’ and The Changing World of Women’s Cricket
Netflix has released ICC’s documentary ‘Beyond The Boundary’ on the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup.
It might be mere coincidence or a well-thought editing masterstroke that Alyssa Healy and Sornnarin Tippoch almost echo each other within the first five minutes of “Beyond The Boundary”, a documentary that offers an inside look of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup that was held in Australia earlier this year.
One is a successful wicket-keeper of the most successful side in the world, while the other is the skipper of Thailand’s cricket team. While one has already established herself among the greats, the other has unfulfilled dreams and unexplored passion.
And yet, there remains an uncanny resemblance as they talk about an identity struggle that arises from playing a sport that is usually reserved for their male counterparts.
“I’ve never been a household name. It’s always been I’m the niece of Ian Healy or I’m married to Mitchell Starc...”
“My family don’t understand what I do.”
This constant yearning to be accepted, acknowledged and recognized for their undying toil has been the story of the women cricketers from across the globe since time immemorial.
As records were ignored, performances were overlooked and stadiums went empty, their branch of cricket remained in the shadows of their highly-paid and widely-worshiped male counterparts. With next-to-no coverage and sub-par treatment from the boards to the broadcasters to the fans, women’s cricket games were lifeless and silent, and it needed a defining moment to add colour to them.
A Big Stride and Plenty of Noise
The impact of the 2017 World Cup in changing the face of the women’s game has often been spoken about. To prevent repetition, I will avoid mentioning how the Indian Eves’ miracle run to the finals in England three years ago got the nation (and might I say, the world) hooked.
I will not talk about Har-Monster-Preet Kaur’s blistering knock in the semis against Australia that got the fans interested, and neither will I relive the heartbreak that followed after the side went down in the summit clash.
I will, however, mention how that tournament was essential – not only for the growth of the women’s game, but also for the young girls who harboured dreams but remained afraid to venture into risky waters for the fear of being unrecognised. I will talk about the deeply impactful image of a kid wearing Smriti Mandhana’s jersey during the 2018 T20 World Cup as she watched her hero bat like poetry in West Indies.
I will talk about equal pay and maternity leaves; about swelling academies and new-found inspiring celebrities. I love the criticism Mandhana gets if she fails because her lack of form matters. Packed stadiums, banners that read “We love cricket because the girls play it better”, and a rush for selfies with the players. I see the changing dynamics, of which the Thailand cricket team remains a prime example of, and, I gush.
“I have come here to chase my dream, and I hope to play in the next World Cup and the next, the next and the next.” When Thailand batter Naruemol Chaiwai opens up about her dreams and shares the importance of cricket in her life, an unknowing smile flashes wide.
Undeterred. A strong belief. An innocent wish. To rule the world, and to make a spot among the major forces.
Chaiwai’s words have a bigger symbolism. As she remains slouched in her dressing room baring herself, she emerges as the spokesperson of every woman cricketer who has played the game. Much like the former legends of the sport who had once played, she has a larger-than-life vision not only for herself or her team but for women’s cricket as a whole.
Aware that the journey to play the next T20 World Cup will not be devoid of obstacles, she nonetheless commits herself to her dream. She plays with a smile and enjoys every four or six hit by her fellow teammates who too have conquered every obstacle to take the field. Despite not much support and despite doubts swirling around her future, she is steadfast about playing in the next World Cup and the next and the next.
Cut to March 8, 2020. The silence has given way to a deafening roar. Empty stands are jam-packed with no breathing space in sight. Dhols and trumpets, songs and recitations. Thirty rounds of the Mexican Wave as more than 84,000 people stand up and witness the Australian and the Indian women’s cricket teams battle it out in the summit clash.
Goosebumps as the national anthem is blared, oohs and aahs as catches are taken and missed. There are posters and there are charts. There is heartbreak, tears and laughs. Shafali Verma’s exuberance is intercepted by Healy’s flair, and as the former stars look on at the proceedings at the MCG from the sidelines, they know it is a dream fulfilled.
Women’s cricket, for its seemingly lackluster and low-scoring games, stands tall not only because it has managed to find a way from the shadows but also because of the never-ending joyous spirit that the players embraced it with. Once a poor cousin of the men’s game, it is now buzzing with newer opportunities, young talent and determined eyes.
It is no longer the under-dog, rather an entity that can hold onto its own, and every gritty player needs to be applauded for teaching young girls the importance of pursuing a goal, no matter how tough it may seem.
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words.)
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