On December 16, 1997, Belinda Clark smacked and humiliated a hapless Denmark attack around the MIG Ground, Mumbai, in the Women’s World Cup. Jaideep Vaidya revisits the day when an Australian woman scored the first One-Day International (ODI) century in the history of the game before her more illustrious male counterparts in Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.
The Indian Little Master may have a gazillion cricketing records to his name but, contrary to popular belief, Tendulkar isn’t the first player to score 200 runs or more in a One-Day International.
In a 1997 ICC Women’s World Cup game in Mumbai, 13 years before Tendulkar became the first male to score a double ton in a 50-over game, captain Belinda Clark smashed an unbeaten 229 off just 155 balls to propel Australia to a mammoth total of 412 for three against Denmark.
It was a brutal annihilation of an inexperienced attack, and all she was trying to do was get acclimatised to Indian conditions.
“My aim for the day was to bat for the 50 overs to makes sure I was comfortable with Indian conditions for the rest of the tournament,” Clark told CricketCountry. “I didn’t set out to score a big score but just to make sure I was concentrating well and hitting the ball nicely.”
Umpire Madan Singh, who officiated the match, described it as a “marvellous innings”. “She was very smooth and very assured with her strokeplay,” he said.
“After the match, I was talking to some of the opponents and they seemed rather embarrassed with (conceding) the world record. I told them that there was no reason to feel sheepish and embarrassed. She was just that good,” he added.
Denmark, of course, did not even come close chasing the total and were bowled out for all of 49 – one-fifth of Clark’s total.
The then-27-year-old hit 22 boundaries in her knock and shared hundred-plus stands with two of her partners – Lisa Keightley (60) and Karen Rolton (64). In spite of the staggering figures, Singh said that the knock involved fewer boundaries compared to the running between the wickets.
“I was quite impressed with her knock, and a little surprised too with the amount of running between the wickets. Her statistics may say that she scored at a very high rate, but there was a lot of running between the wickets involved than boundaries. That Australian women’s team was so fit, it could give some of our Times Shield teams a run for their money,” said Singh.
Bandra’s Middle Income Group (MIG) Ground isn’t the biggest in the world, but that does not take anything away from Clark’s monumental effort. “The MIG ground is small, relatively, but she was really good – no doubt,” said Singh.
The sprightly young captain went on to lead Australia to the trophy and scored 52 in the final against New Zealand at Eden Gardens in front of 80,000-odd spectators.
Unfortunately, Clark’s name is burried under those of great Australian male captains such as Greg Chappell, Allan Border and Steve Waugh. In an international career that spanned from 1991 to 2005, Clark led the Australian women’s team to two World Cup victories and one final after taking charge in 1994.
Oblivious to many in the cricketing world, she was named Wisden Australia Cricketer of the Year in 1998 and was inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in 2011. She was also appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2000 “for service to cricket, particularly through the Australian Women’s Cricket Team, and to the promotion and development of the game for women and girls.” She has also served as the CEO of Women’s Cricket Australia.
However, that knock in Mumbai is definitely the highlight of Clark’s glittering career. It is a world record that is bound to stand for ages and it is rather unfortunate that her remarkable achievements are hidden and overshadowed by her male counterparts.
Even still, Clark is proud to be joined by the likes of Tendulkar and Sehwag in the club she started. “I was excited when Sachin and the Sehwag scored 200 in ODI matches,” she said. “It’s an indication that the game continues to evolve and move forward and I think that is great for the sport. Great company to be in don’t you think?”
(JaideepVaidya is a multiple sports buff and Editorial Consultant at Cricket Country. He has a B.E. in Electronics Engineering, but that isn’t fooling anybody. He started writing on sports during his engineering course and fell in love with it. The best day of his life came on April 24, 1998, when he witnessed birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar pummel a Shane Warne-speared Aussie attack from the stands during the Sharjah Cup Final. A diehard Manchester United fan, you can follow him on Twitter @jaideepvaidya. He also writes a sports blog - The Mullygrubber )