Whilst the team was disappointed to lose the T20 series against NZ 2 -1, upon conclusion of that series our focus immediately turned to the challenge we had ahead. In the week prior to arriving in India there was some uncertainty about where we would be playing our round games in the World Cup as political issues had arisen in relation to the Pakistan women’s participation in the World Cup – who were in our round group. This uncertainly, coupled with getting organised to get to India meant I had little time to think about the reality that the World Cup was to be my last international tour. This all changed once I arrived in India. It was almost like I had a personal countdown to everything; How many more training sessions? How many more warm-ups(I actually always counted that one)? How many more team meetings? And the thing I was going to miss most, how many more matches? It was finally here, the moment that I knew had to come, but could never really imagine – my last tour as a player and it happened to be a World Cup.
Throughout the preliminary matches things certainly didn’t go all our way from a performance perspective. Whilst we managed to win all of our round matches, Pakistan and South Africa had improved significantly in the last four years, and those matches were certainly closer that we would have hoped for. Thankfully I was contributing a little with both the bat and the ball, which gave me the confidence that I needed going into the super sixes round for my last tournament.
We finished the round matches the top of our pool and after our thrilling win over England in the super sixes stage, I felt very comfortable that if we played to our game plan we had the form to make the final. This would mean that my dream of playing my last match for Australia in a World Cup final was a real possibility of coming true. I think it was at this point that my mind started to think that this was really it and what that meant in reality.
I started to notice things about being around the group that I normally would take for granted, such as the friendships that I had formed with this younger group of girls, the ones that inspired me to be a better player. For instance:
- Jess Cameron and how we loved to bat with each other by not saying a damn thing when we were in the middle, we just got each other and understood
- Coytie (Sarah Coyte) and the fact that every time she came out to bat we would both speak in an Indian accent and wobble our heads
- Erin Osborne looking at me when things weren’t going well when she bowled and my response was to suck it up and bowl again, obviously with a smile on my dial
- Meg Lanning and the conversations that we had about constructing an innings and me being in awe of what she could do with the willow
- And the two little pains in my backside. The ones who I probably spent the most time with, sat at the back of the bus, teased the hell out of me, Midge (Alyssa Healy) and Pez (Ellyse Perry).
I could go through the whole team and support staff and I knew there was something that I was going to miss about each of them and the life that you have on tour. Life on tour isn’t always easy, but it is always an experience that is so unique and is something that in my life will certainly never be able to be replicated.
The 3 days prior to the final I found myself starting slip in the sense of saying ‘well that was my last session’ and a few girls picked it up and inevitably the questions about when I was retiring started to surface. To put the players at ease, to ensure that my retirement didn’t distract the team from the focus of winning the World Cup and to get the players off my back I rolled out the line that it would most likely be The Ashes to be played in August this year. However, silently my heart and head were on the same page and I knew the World Cup Final would be my final match.
The day of the final, and the actual final, certainly saw me think and feel about things I have not in the past in similar circumstances. As to be expected I was nervous because you don’t get many chances to play in a World Cup final. I also found myself reflecting on different parts related to the match. For example, as I walked off the field after the national anthems I thought to myself, well this is it. Fortunately, after a few moments, I would catch myself as the emotion of my decision started to get to me. I kept reminding myself that I needed to focus on the actual game as I wanted to make sure it was a happy send off. Another example of me grappling with the occasion was when Midge gave me a hug to wish me good luck for the game. I knew that she was giving me a hug to say good luck in your final match but had respected my wishes by not stating it, which was a hard moment for me.
When I finished my last over Pez came up to me to see if I had anymore and I said that I was done, “that was it.” From that comment she knew this was my last match and then proceeded to state “when we get that last wicket, I am gunning for you…no matter what”
Well, she got her wish as I was able to take a one handed catch that sealed the victory for Australia. What a way to finish!!! I am not sure it could have been a better finish if I had been able to write the script myself! The whole team rallied around me with Jules and Pez lifting me up, a moment and a memory that I will treasure forever and one that I still get very emotional about when thinking about it.
After the initial celebrations took place on the field, I needed to find a way to tell Fitz (our coach) and Julie Savage (chair of selectors) so that I could officially announce it to the team in the change rooms. In the change rooms I managed to get Julie by herself and informed her that I had decided the time was right for myself, and the team, to retire from international cricket immediately. After the team song was sung, Sav then announced that I had an announcement. In a lovely gesture from the team, the supporters who had made the trip to India to support the team were invited into the change rooms to see us sing the team song and allow congratulations to occur in private. This meant that the whole team, support staff and more importantly Tracey, Corinne, Sarah and Shaun (some of the closest people in my life) were in the room to witness my very short speech about this being the right time to leave the game – this was special to me. Obviously tears started to flow and I was soon embraced by all my teammates. It was done.
Since making the announcement of my playing retirement I wouldn’t say that I have had a huge sense of relief nor do I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. What I do know is that there was never going to be a better time, or a better way, to leave the game. Not only were we World Champions for the second time in 6 months, I had still contributed well throughout the tournament and more importantly there is an exciting new generation of players that are going to take the game to another level. I look forward to watching them continuing to develop and playing the women’s game in ways people admire and are thrilled by.
As for me? What now? Well I am sure that I won’t ever be too far away from the people that have influenced my life. I will no doubt have many days ahead that I catch myself thinking about how much I really miss playing. I know I will also miss the random experiences you have on tour, as well as the chance to meet new people who come into your life as a player. That all being said, whilst the playing chapter of my cricket journey has now come to a close (and to a close in a way I could have only dreamed of), another chapter in my cricket journey is about to start and I can tell you, it’s one that I am excited and energised about.