Ambitions for women’s IPL rest on the friendly rivalry of two ‘sisters’, writes Ben Horne
Alyssa Healy will enter uncharted territory when she touches down in India today. She has been at the forefront of the women’s cricket revolution for the best part of a decade but Australia’s biggest personality player doesn’t know what to expect.
The potential rewards are endless; the excitement palpable. Why? Because Healy is about to take the gloves off against Ellyse Perry.
Australian cricket’s only lifelong teammates, described as “sisters” by others in the inner sanctum, have together taken the Southern Stars to No.1 in the world.
But this Tuesday night in Mumbai, it will be as opponents that Healy and Perry will have a golden chance to change the face of the women’s game forever.
They will face off in the T20 challenge — a sold-out exhibition match to be staged before the men’s IPL semi-final and broadcast globally (live on Fox Sports in prime time), dubbed as the road-test for a profile- boosting, cash-injecting women’s Indian Premier League.
Healy will headline for the IPL Trailblazers and Perry for the IPL Supernovas and their personal rivalry, more than 20 years in the making, could hold the key to women’s cricket taking a profound step.
“One year (in primary school) she captained Sydney North and I captained Combined Independent Schools and we went out to do the toss and both sledged one another,” Healy said. “The umpire didn’t know what to do. He ob- viously didn’t know we knew one another and we were getting stuck into one another so much that the umpire told us to calm down.
“We had a giggle and let him know we were friends — and then it was on for all money after that.” Welcome to the jungle. Healy still has Perry saved as “Dags” in her phone because when she first met her in primary school, the dual-international was so tiny her clothes were six sizes too big.
The two grew up down the road from each other in Beecroft in Sydney’s north west. The only other time Healy played against Perry prompted an outcry and a scheduling change from Cricket Australia.
As in men’s cricket in the 1990s, when the Australia A v Australia one-day concept died out shortly after the A team won, there were no more Shooting Stars v Southern Stars matches after Healy’s up-and-comers beat Perry’s fully fledged Australian team.
The description of Healy and Perry, both 27, as “sisters” doesn’t simply refer to the tightness of their bond but also to the competitive tensions that break out at every training session. Camp insiders say you could throw a couple of marbles out on the ground and Healy and Perry would fight tooth and nail over them.
Perry has unyielding focus and Healy a wicketkeeper’s guile and class-clown humour. By pitting them against each other in the IPL road test, organisers have created the potential to inspire the Indian public to embrace women’s cricket.
Three other Australians are in the mix too. Beth Mooney will line up with Healy for the Trailblazers and national captain Meg Lanning and fiery fast bowler Megan Schutt will join Perry at the Supernovas.
“We’ll see how the fans react on Tuesday,” says Healy, who blasted her maiden international century there just over a month ago. “This will potentially change the game. You want the sport to be big in India and we’ve seen the power of the Indian men’s team and what they can give to other nations around the world when they tour.
“They’ve put two pretty strong teams together.”
Healy has partnered husband Mitchell Starc to the men’s IPL and experienced the intoxicating atmosphere and seven-figure salaries.
India have been slow to back the women’s game and the Australian team still receive little fanfare when they tour the subcontinent, in contrast with the men’s side, who are mobbed at every corner. But Healy feels the tide is turning.
“To see how fanatical the Indians are about their teams and about their players is something you can’t replicate anywhere else in the world,” she says. “For the women’s game, it would be something really special and something none of us will ever experience in our home countries.”
Alyssa Healy will headline for the IPL Trailblazers against Ellyse Perry’s Supernovas. Picture: Jonathan Ng