Like Uncle Like Niece (Ian Healy and Alyssa Healy)

Published before ICC World T20 2012
Playing with boys at school pushed me to do things I never thought I would-Australia Wicket Keeper Alyssa Healy

Alyssa Healy’s cricket career so far hasn’t been devoid of memorable moments. The Australian national women’s side wicket keeper has been the focal point from the day she started cricket, and the first of those was lighted when she became the first girl to be selected to play alongside the male counterparts in 2006.

She,22, is part of a cricket-rich family being the daughter of Greg Healy and former Australian wicket keeper Ian Healy, her uncle. This interview was conducted as part of the ICC World Twenty20 Sri Lanka 2012 preparations and here she speaks about how her cricket developed by playing among the boys, how she saw Ian Healy when she was young, who she would like to bring back from retirement if she was given a chance, Australia’s chances during the ICC World T20 and many more.

Here are the excerpts.

Q-Your introduction to Cricket is a unique story. Let’s hear it from you. What was the reason that convinced you to start playing Cricket? Was it a long time goal of yours or you woke up one day and it hit you that you should be a professional cricketer?

A-Obviously there was a lot of cricket in my family before I was born so I sometimes joke that I was always going to end up playing cricket because it was in my blood, however I didn’t start playing cricket until I was at school and a friend of mine at the time actually asked if I wanted to go along to a Kanga Cricket session down at the local park. So I ended up first picking up a bat when I was 7. I apparently was always quite distracted by the sandpit at the local park and often had to be encouraged back into the session by my dad! I think once I got into playing cricket and noticed that I had some talent is when I saw that I could possibly go all the way and play for Australia.

Q-At the age of 16, Baker’s College First XI introduces their wicket keeper; a female by the name of Alyssa Healy is picked to play among the boys in the school cricket tournament. Can you go back in time and ring a bell to those memories? It wasn’t without adversity either. How fondly do you remember them, looking back?

A-That was quite a funny situation to be in! Barker was always really supportive and actually offered for me to try out in the first place, and I agreed that if I wasn’t good enough to play First XI then that was fine I would be happy. So I was quite excited to be selected. I and I don’t think any of the boys actually saw an issue with it until the media caught up with a letter that was written by an Old Barker Boy who wasn’t happy with my selection. It was quite a day when I had channel 9 knocking down my door at 6am wanting my opinion to me being on the front page of the newspaper! I really enjoyed the experience of playing with the boys at school, obviously at that stage the boys are starting to get bigger and stronger so it was quite I challenge for me but I loved every minute of it. The boys and the school were really supportive the whole way through, and whilst I didn’t have the best season performance wise, I really enjoyed it.

Q-Did playing with the boys enhance your career and skills? What kind of an impact did it have on your overall development as a cricketer and who you are today?

A-Definitely, playing with the boys I feel was great for me. I had played boys cricket growing up however stopped at U/15s and came across to play women’s cricket. So to be playing alongside and against 17-18 year old boys who were a lot bigger and stronger than me was a real challenge and I feel my game definitely came along way over that period of time. Not only that, I felt like I learnt a lot about myself and my game and how I could push myself and do things I never thought I could.

Q-Let’s talk about your illustrious uncle; the indomitable Aussie legend, Ian Healy. You must have started watching cricket parallel to the time your uncle reached the zenith of wicket keeping in world cricket and established himself as one of the greats to have donned the gloves. Can you recall that memory from your perspective? What lessons did you carry forward?
A-I think when I was younger I never really understood what he was doing and what it all really meant. I think once I started getting involved in cricket I started to understand what he had achieved and how incredible he was as a cricketer. I remember being a bit younger and gong to watch a test at the SCG and me and my friends stood at the fence yelling at him to come and say hello, meanwhile he was in the middle of warm up!! We had no idea what any of it meant at that time, however I look back now I feel slightly embarrassed about the situation and actually appreciate him coming and saying hello afterwards! I feel privileged to have him as an uncle, he is always very supportive of what I do (even though I play for NSW!) and always willing to help out if I need with anything. I’m pretty lucky that if I have a problem with my game that I am just a phone call away from one of the best wicketkeepers in the world. He always pushes e to do more with my cricket and challenges me to work harder every time I see him.
Q-Women’s cricket has undergone massive changes in the past decade. It has risen to a status that is universally accepted now. How do you acknowledge its journey to where it is today? And what does the future hold for women’s cricket in your point-of-view?
A-Women’s cricket has definitely grown over the last 10 years and it’s pretty exciting to be a part of. The introduction of T20 has enabled not only Cricket Australia but Countries around the world to promote cricket to a female audience and a big part of that is by promoting us as a female playing group. It’s always exciting to play at some of the best grounds in the world in front of decent sized crowds and on tv. The ability for us to play before or after men’s international games has given people a chance to see us play cricket and people are always quite impressed. Obviously we aren’t as big as the boys and won’t be hitting 6s every ball however the way we can accumulate similar big scores to the boys by playing our style is still just as impressive.
Just to see the massive leaps that have been made in the last few years makes it really exciting for the future. The only thing we need to focus on is keeping more females playing the game, and for the ones already playing, keeping them in longer. Cricket Australia have been really good at helping this cause and the future of cricket within Australia is looking really bright with some fantastic young players coming through and beginning to make names for themselves.

Q-Who is your idol in Cricket? If you could bring any professional cricketer back in the game, who would it be?

A-I still love watching Ricky Ponting bat; he is an incredible player and has been for so long which is so impressive. He should be an inspiration to most young players coming through simply by just looking at his records. As a cricket tragic I would love to bring back the Australian bowling attack from the 90s and early 00s just for one more game, preferably against the current England team! To be able to see Glen McGrath and Shane Warne still bowling sides out with ease would be great!

Q-You have achieved so much. Be it playing cricket with the boys, rising through the age groups, being awarded the ‘Rising Star Award’ for New South Wales to the position you are in now. It has happened in a very short span of time which means you must have had some unforgettable moments. What are the top 5 defining moments in your cricketing career?

A-Everything has been such a blur to date; I have enjoyed every moment of playing cricket not only for my country but for my state and club as well. Some of my most memorable moments would have to be:
1. Winning the T20 World Cup in West indies 2010
2. Reclaiming the Ashes from England in 2011 and making my test debut
3. Being a part of 5 WNCL titles with NSW
4. My first tour with the Shooting Stars (AUS U23) to NZ in 2005
5. Playing first XI for Barker College
There are so many more moments however these really stand out in my mind as the most memorable!

Q- Communication between a coach and player is important. What are your thoughts on this and how have you maximized on the training you’ve received?

A-Obviously this is a really crucial part of any sport. Being able to communicate with your coach is essential. I have had a fantastic wicket-keeping coach in Christina Matthews who took me on as a 12 year old and got me to the stage where I could represent my country. It is great to have someone that you can just generally chat about your worries and fears, your strengths and weaknesses and of course just be able to be pushed to your limits by to help you improve not only physically but mentally also, which is an important part of cricket.

Q-We noticed you are a frequent tweeter and is quite active on social media. How important is this new medium of communication to you as a sports woman? Do you think it plays a role today in a sportsman or a woman career? How does it impact you?

A-Yes I do love my twitter! I always said I would never join but then I tried it one day and have been hooked ever since. It’s a great tool to be able to promote yourself and your team to a wide audience. You can be followed by people all across the world. Obviously this can be quite dangerous if not handled properly however I think it’s a good platform to show some of your personality to those that don’t see you every day. I love the fact that I feel like I’m friends with superstars around the world because I know how they are thinking or feeling about an upcoming tournament or gig!

Q- Being a wicket keeper, is there a different method that you adopt with the gloves when keeping wickets for spinners compared to the fast bowlers? How does the concentration factor come in? Does it differ when it comes to the two disciplines of bowling, if any? This question is based on the fact that ICC World Twenty20 will be played in Sri Lanka. Traditionally, it is a country that has tended to provide assistance to the spinners.
A-At the end of the day being a wicketkeeper is all about catching the ball every tie it comes at you, so the most important thing would be to watch the ball! However there are subtle differences in keeping up to the stumps than back to the faster bowlers. You have a lot more to contend with, obviously the ball turning, the bat right in your face distracting you and the worry about having the awareness of having to take the bails off if the batter even moves slightly out of their crease for a split second! It is a lot the think about so concentration is definitely a key. To be able to concentrate the whole game is impossible so it is about learning how to switch your concentration on and off between balls to be able to spread it out throughout the game. Sri Lanka has a reputation of being quite spin friendly so if given a chance to wear the gloves in the upcoming world cup, I will have to be on my game every ball to make sure I take every dismissal that comes my way.
Q-Are you excited about the upcoming ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka? How are you preparing for the tournament? What are your expectations and challenges?
A-I’m so excited for the upcoming ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. I have never been to Sri Lanka before so I’m excited to not only play cricket but see a country I have not yet experienced. I’m training really hard at both aspects of my game at the moment to give myself the best opportunity to win games for Australia if selected. I’m expecting all the games to be incredibly tough and tight fought as most T20 games are. As an Australian squad we are in really good form heading into the tournament so hopefully we can win all our games including the final!
Q-We know Australia has fielded strong women cricketers for many years. You have maintained the standards and performed well in the past ICC tournaments. How do you rate your chances this time around?
A-I think that the competition is going to be really tough. Every team has been performing really well of late and are all looking good heading into the tournament. We have really been working hard and feel like the team is in a really good place to go in and defend our title!

Q-Final question, who are your biggest influences in life and cricket? How do you define ‘Life with cricket’?

A-My parents have been massive influences in my life. They have given me the opportunity to play the game I love for as long as I have and have supported every decision I have made. It is great to have an incredible support system like that behind you, it gives you the confidence to go out and push yourself to constantly improve and be the best you can be. Cricket is a massive part of my life and most of my decisions seem to revolve around cricket! However I have enjoyed every minute and hopefully have many more years left travelling the globe paying and promoting the game I love!The Island Link-Like Uncle Like Niece

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