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Alyssa Healy: ‘Opportunity to play four big events in 2022 daunting but also exciting’

Alyssa Healy, the Australia wicketkeeper-batter, believes the prospect of playing four major women’s competitions – the rescheduled ODI World Cup, a T20 World Cup, the Commonwealth Games, and a part of the Ashes – in 2022 is “obviously daunting”. However, in her view, a glut of high-profile international events in a single year could also serve as an “exciting” opportunity to “showcase the women’s game” further, should teams have adequate preparation.

“Maybe we could label it ‘international women’s year’ if that’s going to happen, and have four big major events all throughout that year and no men’s sports being played – that would be fantastic,” Healy said in jest during a chat with ESPNcricinfo about Beyond the Boundary, the ICC’s recently released documentary on the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup.

Originally scheduled for February-March next year in New Zealand, the ODI World Cup was recently deferred until 2022, with the event’s CEO Andrea Nelson confirming that the uncertainty around the preparedness of the teams for the qualifying tournament being the prime reason behind the postponement. The rescheduling added a fourth major women’s event to the 2022 calendar, with a T20 World Cup in South Africa, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and the women’s Ashes, due to begin late next year in Australia, also jostling for space.

“Look, it will be interesting to see how they [the ICC] are able to balance all those events,” Healy said. “Enabling all the international sides to have proper preparation for those big tournaments is key, and if that’s not able to take place, then they’re obviously going to look at rescheduling some of the events.

“The opportunity to play four big major worldwide events in one year is obviously daunting, but it’s also exciting for us to showcase the women’s game on an international scale as big as that. I think most of the girls around the world would be chomping at the bits to be part of it.”

Healy, who was named in the 18-member national squad on Friday for the upcoming series against New Zealand, is gearing up for a busy home season ahead. The pandemic permitting, Australia’s limited-overs bilateral assignment – three T20I and as many ODIs – against New Zealand begins on September 27, which will be followed by the sixth edition of the WBBL in October-November and a three-match ODI series in January against India.

The T20 World Cup in Australia was the last multi-team tournament this year before the sport came to a shuddering halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And while international cricket has resumed, the cancellation of India and South Africa women’s tours to England in the last two months and the postponement of the 2021 ODI World Cup have taken away the opportunity to build on the success of the T20 World Cup. In such a climate, Healy believed the ICC’s documentary, which premiered last week, rekindled the desire among women cricketers to get back on the field.

“The last thing that everyone remembers [about women’s cricket] is the [T20] World Cup, and to relive that through the documentary was timely, in my mind. For us players, it reignites the craving to go out there and play cricket,” Healy said. “Fortunately for us, we are lucky enough to have a series against New Zealand that’s looking like it’s going to go ahead. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of series around the world that aren’t happening. We are really grateful for the opportunity to be able to go out and play cricket for our country.

“The ODI World Cup postponement was obviously a disappointing thing for the women’s game, but there are bigger factors are at play here. We need everyone to be safe, we need everyone to be healthy. For us, hopefully, we can be best prepared for the next ODI World Cup. Hopefully, we can see some bilateral series popping up in the near future when they’re safe to do so.”

Earlier in the day, Australia captain Meg Lanning said although the 2021 ODI World Cup seemed like “a bit of light at the end of the tunnel” amid the current uncertainties hampering women’s tours, she was hopeful that Australia’s home series against New Zealand would be a good starting point to lead into 2022, which, in her assessment, is set to be a “massive year”.

“No doubt we were disappointed the World Cup got pushed back by a year; we were gearing up for that as a bit of light at the end of the tunnel but at the same time we understand the decision,” Lanning said during a video press conference. “There’s so much that goes into those things and probably a lot we don’t know or understand and that’s the decision the ICC has made.

“Now we’re just looking towards 2022, which is going to be a massive year for us and could potentially be a couple of world tournaments in there and a Commonwealth Games. So that’s something we’re looking forward to and we’ll get started with this series coming up and then build toward 2022.”

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