THE CRICKETING GENIUS OF BETTY WILSON, Women’s cricket has suffered from blows throughout its tumultuous journey up til now, and it’s graph of success can be measured against the mere fact that from having no women allowed to step foot in the Lord’s, we now have stands piling up for spectators to witness these talented women.
This development did not occur in a fortnight, or a week, or a year or two. It took decades of aimless jibes, failed petitions and lack of majority to help grow the female sport that carved the raw diamond into its polished state today. There were many who worked tirelessly into achieving the goal of bringing the sport to the limelight, and today we take a look at the illustrious career of Betty Wilson, perhaps one of the greatest players to have ever graced the cricket field.
The daughter of a bootmaker in the suburbs of Melbourne, the young girl taught herself the sport of cricket against a lamppost, and her first ever cricketing boots were sewn by her father, the very man who, for the very first time, exposed his daughter to the wonders of cricket by taking her to the Collingwood Women’s cricket club.
Ever since watching that training session, it was hard to ignore the fascination that twinkled in the eyes of the 10 – year – old child. On being invited to join the club, Wilson was soon included in their XI within a week, and that began the cricketing career that would eventually mould into a legendary stint.
By the age of 16, Betty had made her way into the state team. However, the year was 1937, which meant that soon the Second World War disrupted the world, abruptly discontinuing Betty’s career and delaying her international debut.
The stars aligned only eleven years later for the player, who made her international debut for Australia in 1948, scoring 90 runs and taking 10 wickets in the match. It wasn’t too late before her name was permanently registered into the minds of cricket lovers, when in the very first Women’s Ashes match, which was only her second one, she scored a magnificent debut hundred. This performance of hers brought pride to herself while inflicting heavy harm onto the opposition, as she became the first Australian woman to score a century against England.
This feat set the ball rolling, as Wilson managed to impress the world with her cricketing prowess. It built up to the match in 1958, a decade after her debut, when she became the first player ever to take 10 wickets and score 100 runs in the same test match. Yes, it wasn’t Ian Botham who reached the milestone in 1980, but Betty Wilson, who smashed the record a whopping 22 years before him. In the same match, she also became the first woman to take a hat trick in tests, a moment where she was overcome with emotions and burst into tears at the realisation of the accomplishment.
She retired at the peak of her career the very same year, but left a drastic impact off the field as well. Being a pioneer of women’s cricket, she was inducted into the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame in 1985, and was the second Australian woman to be added to the ICC Hall of Fame in 2015.
Owing to the male predominance in the era she played in, people didn’t shy away from comparing her to the male greats, and she was also nicknamed “Lady Bradman”. Food for thought. Would a male counterpart ever be subjected to a similar comparison to a female legend? Perhaps a young player being called the ” Male Mithali Raj” ? Probably not. That’s the root cause of inequality.
Betty Wilson is, and will remain the “Betty Wilson” of cricket. She will forever be remembered as a trailblazer, an inspiration, a role model, and if only she could have seen her efforts bearing fruit in the form of the advancement of women’s cricket, the result would have made all of their struggles worth it.
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