By Shashank Kishore in Mirpur
Winning the World T20 would be the best way for Ian Healy’s niece to explain why she has missed her marine biology classes recently
"Today, I think that was the best ever decision," said Alyssa, part of the Australia Women team at the ICC Women's World T20 2014. "I started playing with the boys at the Carlingford Waratahs Club in New South Wales. I wanted to be a bowler but wasn’t too good at it, so the boys gave me the gloves and said this is your best place.
"So I had no choice but to keep, else I couldn't play. We were given the gloves on rotation and when my turn came, maybe I did something right. So that was when I decided I’d take up keeping. It was just a coincidence that my uncle Ian was also a wicketkeeper for Australia."
It’s a different story altogether that it wasn’t Ian who she looked at for advice when she finally decided to become a specialist wicketkeeper. "I owe a lot to Christina Matthews," said Alyssa of the former Australia Women stumper, who played 20 Tests and 47 One-Day Internationals. "While growing up, my uncle was obviously away a great deal, so I didn't particularly look up to him for advice or suggestion.
"At that stage, I needed guidance, and Christina took me under her wings at the age of 12 at New South Wales. She has been my mentor and someone who has shaped my career to where it is today. Hopefully she will continue to have a big influence in the future as well."
It’s been four years since Alyssa, 24, made her international debut. For a majority of those years, she has had to live under the shadow of Jodie Fields, the first-choice wicketkeeper, who till not long ago was captain of the team as well. But Fields's late withdrawal from the World T20 due to a combination of injury and poor form meant Alyssa had the opportunity to don the gloves.
"Definitely those were big boots to fill as Jodie has been around for a long time," said Alyssa. "Being the second wicketkeeper is the hardest role to play, but even when Jodie was around, I knew I needed to succeed as a specialist batter if I were to have a future. The pressure of knowing you had to be on your mark all the time brought focus into my life, because I worked that much harder at my game."
While Alyssa admitted that she had plenty more to do to carve a niche of her own, it can’t be denied she has already played an important role in Australia's road to the World T20 final, where they would attempt a hat-trick of titles, on Sunday.
After scoring 41, 0, 9 and 20 at the top of the order in the group matches, Alyssa dropped down the batting order in the semi-final against West Indies and Jess Jonassen, the left-arm spinner who has very little credo with the bat, was asked to open. Even if Alyssa was hurt, it didn't show in her body language and her unbeaten 21-ball 30 at No. 7 was instrumental in Australia posting total of 140, which proved just enough despite Deandra Dottin's blitzkrieg as West Indies fell eight short.
"I think it was just one of those days where it worked for me, honestly," said Alyssa. "I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any pressure at all. I probably was over-analysing my game at the top of the order, thinking about how I would build my innings. When I came lower down, I didn’t have a choice, so maybe that did the trick of me."
The final pitted two traditional rivals in what promised to be an engaging battle. Both sides have attracted a lot of attention across the cricketing community back home and are in the midst of turning fully professional at some stage in the not too distant future.
But for Alyssa, while cricket took up much of her time, it wasn’t the only thing in her life. "Studies form an important part of my life at the moment," said Alyssa, who is studying marine biology. "I’ve missed plenty of lectures over the summer in order to prepare for this tournament, so I’ll have to catch up on all the courses I’ve missed and, of course, finish my course. A win here would be the icing on the cake, no doubt."