ICC Women's T20 World Cup 2020
The Record: pain and pressure of Australia's Cup fairytale
The Record, a new documentary following Australia's T20 World Cup journey, more than does justice to an extraordinary campaign and moment in women's sport
19 February 2021, 11:45 AM AEST
When Her Films producers Angela Pippos and Nicole Minchin first pitched a documentary on the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup, the fear in Pippos’ mind was not that Australia may fail to make the final.
Only that their journey towards winning the title - an outcome that to many seemed a fait accompli - may simply lack the requisite drama for a compelling narrative, given the hosts’ recent dominance of world cricket.
As it happened, the whirlwind tournament managed to throw everything imaginable at Australia.
There was poor form, surprise defeats, tournament-ending injuries to Tayla Vlaeminck and Ellyse Perry, relentless Sydney rain; and when Meg Lanning did eventually raise the trophy in front of 86,174 fans at the MCG, she did so less than one week before COVID-19 would see fans banned from live sport.
"We could not have scripted it better, really," Minchin told The Scoop podcast. "It was an incredible tournament."
The Record, a new two-part series on Amazon Prime Video documenting that remarkable campaign, takes fans inside Australia’s campaign with never-before-seen footage.
While it does not include the warts-and-all dressing room and player meeting vision that was a feature of The Test, it does provide a compelling insight into the women behind the world’s best team.
It also offers the players a chance to come clean.
Finally, they can share what truly ran through their minds when they were told about the audacious plan to fill the MCG for the final.
"I just wasn’t sure it was possible. It was so far ahead of what had been achieved before," captain Meg Lanning reflects.
They also reveal the full toll of the pressure that sat on their shoulders in the lead-up to, and during the group stage, of the tournament; not only as the top-ranked nations, hosts and defending champions, but also knowing their presence in the final would be the key to that record attempt.
On February 21, 2020, in the immediate aftermath of their shock first-up defeat to India, Alyssa Healy told reporters: "We love a bit of pressure, that's fine."
After their thumping win over Bangladesh in Canberra, she said: "There's obviously been a lot of talk about (pressure), but within the group, I don't think there's that feeling."
In The Record, she laughs as she clarifies: "We blatantly lied."
Healy, the subject of much scrutiny in the lead-up to the event given a run of poor form and single-digit scores, also reveals the unconventional approach she took the evening before the blockbuster tournament opener against India.
Her unflappable exterior and thick skin meant she had light-heartedly dealt with every question into her form, but in The Record she admits the half-century she scored in that opening match at Showground Stadium brought a distinct satisfaction at proving the doubters wrong.
A surprise star of The Record is opening batter Beth Mooney, whose blunt honesty and willingness to drop an f-bomb is endearing.
The recently crowned Belinda Clark Award winner provides an insight into her inner demons and crises of confidence through the event, alongside moments of hilarity, including recalling fronting the media at Sydney Airport following Ellyse Perry’s hamstring injury.
"We had players in mind who would become our main characters in the documentary," Pippos said.
"But there was a shift when we were doing our interviews and Beth Mooney gave is an absolute cracker of an interview.
"So she ends up featuring more than we thought she would, because she had such a plain-speaking, laconic, cool style about her that we had to get her personality in, and in as many places as we could."
If the attempt at selling out the MCG hinged on Australia making the final, so too did the success of the documentary.
Pippos admitted there had been heart in mouth moments throughout, namely, when Australia were 3-10 against Sri Lanka, a side they had never lost to, and staring down the barrel of being knocked out of the tournament just four days in.
And again when a Sydney deluge ended England’s campaign, as their semi-final against India was washed out without a ball bowled; with Australia’s chances of taking the field for their own eliminator against South Africa later the same day seemingly slim to none.
"I started feeling sick as soon as the weather forecast came in. It was just sounding dreadful," Pippos said.
"Waking up in Sydney that morning and seeing the rain, it was like a supernatural weather event.
"It was serious rain. There was no way I thought they’d get the match away.
"I still don’t know how it happened. We cried afterwards with relief."
The title of The Record of course comes from the call to action behind the bid to fill the MCG for the final, and to break the previous attendance record for a standalone women’s sporting event of 90,815 who attended the 1999 football World Cup final in California.
Though that attempt ultimately fell just a few thousand short, it did not matter in the slightest on that evening at the MCG as the triumphant Australians danced on stage with Katy Perry.
Nor does it matter to The Record, which does the achievement and the women involved justice in its execution, celebrating an event that will never be forgotten by those who played, by those who paved the way, by those who came up with the bold idea and pushed for its success.. and by none of the 86,174 in the crowd.
"I'm all for celebrating the victories along the way, because the road to equality is really hard and this was a massive win for sport and society," Pippos said.
"What we're starting to see now is a shift in attitudes. That's the key to it. You've got to change your thinking about women who play sport and women who love sport.
"Stop comparing it to men's sport. It is different and celebrate it in its own right.
"We're starting to see that now... and 86,000 at the MCG will do a hell of a lot to shift those attitudes that are stuck in the dark ages."
Viewed almost a year on from the event, it also serves as a reminder of the yards still to go.
At one point during the film, Mooney remarks that India are the sleeping giant of the women’s game, while India captain Harmanpreet Kaur says winning India’s first World Cup is her childhood dream.
As it stands, India have not played since the World Cup final, with three planned series either cancelled or postponed due to COVID19.
Of the 10 competing teams, only six have taken the field since that tournament. By contrast, each of the top 10 men’s teams have played in at least one format since the start of the pandemic.
The Record is available to watch now exclusively on Amazon Prime Video