Look up!

Look up, world. There’s nothing plunging down and down and down, much to your disappointment. It’s all going up. Up and shooting through the skies. So just lift those sexist eyes up a little – it won’t even hurt – and marvel at the new witches on the pitches- They. Are. Slaying.

****

The ball flies through and crashes on to the woodwork, kicking South Africa, the crew of believers, back into the game. Dane still believes she can do this. That her girls, her teammates who scripted a surprise love story could go that extra yard. That she could still adjust her blonde bun beneath her cap and walk out on a warm English Sunday through the Long Room, for one last time, for one last shot, for one last quest to quench the thirst of belief. That South Africa could go win this thing. Even if it were by a strand. Ismail screams and has the opposition fallen at her feet, begging for mercy, on the warfield. Laura Marsh walks the walk back, as her overcoat climbs up to the throat, much like defeat, inching up the English team, closer and closer than ever. Dane waits. Sarah sighs, her pearl earring glinting off the evening beam of sun. Anya, the ugly batswoman is on strike. Anya, the bowler. Anya. Dane waits. Ismail runs. The ball lands a few yards away. And before everyone could breathe once, Anya – yes, Anya, smashes it through the covers. She screams and jumps on to ol’ Jenny, her maw wide open in belief, her helmet out and awkward. Jenny lets go and Anya swings her bat, up and upward, high and higher, into triumph, into joy. The English balcony erupts, and the flag soars high. England, closer than ever, to silverware.

Dane is on the ground. She cries. In pain, in anguish, in disbelief. For all those moments of joy, of excellence, South Africa were not meant to be, and her heart breaks. Her heart breaks over a list of endless possibilities, over and over again and over this bitter pill that chokes her. Anya runs in and comforts her, one hand on the back that bent through the Cup, the other on the hand that looted wickets. She comforts, consoles, congratulates and comisserates, and her spirit will never wane in our hearts, but while the wound may heal, the scar will exist.

South Africa did everything they could. They believed, played, screamed, won, lost, laughed and cried. They had a splash with the cherry and the willow. They redefined kick-ass cricket. And so they walk back, heads held high, unafraid to cry, unashamed to swagger away. This is to South Africa, the hippy class of ’17.

England closed in on the closer. They distanced themselves, but they pulled close, to steal a close shave. They racked up the totals, raked in the wickets, and they are the best hanging around. And so they walk back, on a mission, kits slung across, messy buns grazing the neck, shades over the focussed eyes, a blue jersey streaked in pink, to close in on the trophy, on their dream, on a triumph to remember, on their after-parties, with a Natmeg or a Sarah scoop, or the burn of Brunt, so as the need be. This is to England, the boss bunch out there.

Look up, stand up and love them while they slay! You’ve already lost quite a bit, silly!

*****

She rushes down the track and her bat flies in, past the cursed white strip of paint. The edge rakes right in and kicks off a tempest of mud. She lands on her chest and when she knows she’s in, she launches herself into flight and flings her helmet off violently, and roars with the fire of a lion. Her sweat greased bangs come flying across her eyes and in one rich turn, she sends them into nowhere, much like the Australian players thereafter. Her partner is coy, afraid almost, seeing her partner in a fit of mad range. The beast is officially out at Derby. A little while later, the world was sucked right into a cyclone, and she was the eye of it. She owned every blade of grass that day, every tactical nous, every impossible moment, every cricketing stroke. She kneeled and swept them all away like flies. She danced down the pitch and dispatched them with a smashing straight drive. She pulled them, every last bit of them, away to the fence, and she didn’t care if it looked ugly, or awkward – but it looked lovely, of course it did – it was her, the Kaur. And as we tried hanging onto our dear sanity, she stamped upon the Australian will like it was an orange and squeezed the blood, sweat and toil out like pulp. She ruled, like an armed queen, an angry heroine. 171. Remember the number, the name.

All the meaning they had, all the spirit they harboured, all the perseverance they prided upon was blown away, but it’s the Australian blood. They fight till the very end, till they’re absolutely drenched in blood, till they’re down, and down and out at that. And so, even when the ol’ warhorse with her wild hair, Jhulan, dismissed the living crap out of Meg Lanning’s stumps in a touchwood moment, and the Elyss-ian empresses perished after a party, Alex Blackwell and the warrior that she is, lived by the sword. She pierced in, stabbed through, cut, sliced and wounded and nearly assassinated. Drenched in sweat, drowned in effort, she put the ball rolling away to the boundary, and almost imagined a heist for her and her eleven. But when the blue brigade came combatting for one final wicket, she surrendered, succumbed and fell a hero. The spirit of the Southern Stars died… slowly and finally, after an insane run of victories.

Australia and the impossible had finally collided. They were suffocated by a cyclone and stuffed by a sustained gale. They played to win, but couldn’t win to play, for one last time at the Mecca. But just for the imperial, wildly imaginary skill and spirit, they walk the long strut back to homeland, with the cocky kangaroo shoulder shrug. They would have loved to win, but it wasn’t to be. This is to Australia, the ruling roost.

India were away, away to a date with destiny, away to recreate a memory thirty four years old. They dared and for the thrill of the uninhibited courage, they played cricket to love and live the small moments. India had, together turned an undercooked pancake on the pan, into a golden brown one drenched in maple syrup. And the nation slowly woke up, to taste it and send the golden girls all the way. This is to India, the golden eleven that finally had arrived.

Look up, stand up and love them while they slay! You’ve already lost quite a bit, silly!
*****

The ball rushes in and barges into the stumps, and it’s a golden duck for the empress in her last World Cup game. Anya, and the story of screaming. The ball loops in and she madly lifts it, in a compulsive edge to wrap it all up, and it goes hurtling into a pair of pink hands that are feeling the Lord’s Love. Anya, and the story of induced madness. The ball that was rolling away handsomely to the boundary now is jerked by a mental acceleration into another pair of hands in the deep. Anya, and the story of coming back. And for once last time, the ball flies through the air and sets the red on the bails alight. Rajeshwari collapses, India collapses, Rajeshwari surrenders, India surrenders and England win. A billion hearts tear just that tiny little. Anya, and the story of a beautiful persevered impossibility. Anya, the blondie who loved screaming, dreaming and ripping her team right back into a game.

A blur of blue jerseys jumping up, high and dry, in ecstasy, flags soaring high, young girls clapping and old women grinning coyly. Anya, England and the OMG.

A different hue of blue disappears when it really shouldn’t have, but it chooses to stay in hearts, with a warm pride, led by Mithali, a woman of poise, of grace and of class. This was an army that defied odds, fought, celebrated and arrived. Their road was difficult, their destination lovely, but of course, this was the Cup of OMG. This shout-out is from my biased heart, to the team that dared a young village girl to dream, to the team that had usually-ignorant teenage boys talking on a school corridor, to the team that moved hearts, to the team that moved mountains and tossed pancakes in style, with sass and in class. Chin up, India!

A lovely Lord’s Love story to sign off a rollercoaster ride in and around the Cup. Beautiful, ain’t it?

Look up, stand up and love them while they slay! You’ve already lost quite a bit, silly!

*****

I sigh, I think, I type and now I scream : “you go girls!”. And I want YOU to look up. I want YOU to look up, and love this. I want YOU to look up and cherish this few days down the lane. I want YOU to look up and then realise, respect and revere. I want YOU to look up and care. I want YOU to look up, bowl out sexism, like Anya dreams and destroys stumps. I want YOU to look up, look around, and cream Change through the covers. It’s not what you have to do to be fair, it’s what you have to do to STICK AROUND for the next few decades, because it’s going up and shooting through the skies, clearly!

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