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Alyssa Healy’s journey from tragedy to success

On her road to a massive hundred in the final, the Australian World Cup hero had to deal with her sister’s death and misogyny.

“Cricket has provided me with an escape from the anguish and sadness of losing a family one.”

When 12-year-old Alyssa Healy was watching television at home after school, her mother told her she was going to see her sister Kareen play footy, based on a premonition. Kareen, who was four years older, was usually left off by a friend’s mother or her mother would go retrieve her late so that Alyssa wouldn’t be alone. But she told Alyssa that day. “All I want to do now is go see Kareen play.”

A friend of her mother arrived at home later and urged Alyssa to stay the night at their place because her mother would be late. “I had the best night of my life,” says the narrator. Nobody warned her that living at the Healy house would never be the same after that. “Kareen collapsed at touch footy and she is in hospital on life support,” her mother told her the next morning. And things aren’t looking good.”

Alyssa wasn’t sure how to react; she assumed her sister would return home safely shortly, but her mother’s expression told her otherwise. She’d had an allergic reaction, gone into cardiac arrest, and fallen into a coma.

Alyssa went out of a cricket stadium a few days later after hitting a century to find her father waiting. “They had just turned off the life support, and if you wanted to go say your final farewell, you could.” Alyssa chokes up at this point in a fantastic interview on Sam Squiers’ show “On Her Game.” “It was a surreal day of a wonderful memory converted into a horrific one, and oddly enough, it’s always sort of on that day we play a game of cricket, and funnily enough, every year I tend to make a hundred, which is, um, kind of bizarre,” she adds. It’s a strange sensation, but it’s also pleasant.”

Outside leg-stump, Alyssa backs up and smashes the English spinners over the off-side. Repeatedly. On her way to a match-winning 170 in the World Cup final, the biggest stage of them all. It’s a shot that’s nearly extinct in the men’s game. Salim Malik of Pakistan was a master at it, but few people today have the courage to try. Alyssa has done so. Australia were jogging at 90 in 20 overs, but she seized the World Cup in the middle overs with a combination of that shot and the lap-shot.

Some of the leg-side images came after Australia’s World Cup loss to India. Soon after, Australia’s coach, Matthew Mott, encouraged her that she should open the batting rather than aim to be the finisher. Alyssa realised that her leg-side spinner play in the middle overs would determine her success. She got to work on her sweep shots with friend Ash Squire, who was her husband Mitchell Starc’s best man during the wedding. She was out LBW trying to flick the ball to the unoccupied square-leg zone in a World Cup match versus England.

Following her effort on the sweep, opponents must now pack that side of the field for her, allowing her to back away and smash the ball past cover. She worked with Squire again in the lead-up to the World Cup, this time on the lap shots that she would unleash so successfully in the biggest game of her life.

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