90,185. The number is one of the first things we get to see in The Record, referring to the record attendance in a women’s sporting event, the football World Cup in 1999. The documentary starts with the powers that be in Australian women’s cricket aiming to breach that mark by holding the final in MCG, one of the largest stadiums in world cricket.
The context behind this conversation is the fact that women’s cricket matches are often played in smaller stadia (a number of players keep talking about how they have never played in stadia with more than five or fifteen thousand people) and the generally poor outreach of the sport as compared to men’s cricket. The administrators believe given MCG’s capacity and rising interest in women’s cricket in Australia, they should be able to close in on the record.
The players meet this idea with scepticism but are nevertheless pumped about a home tournament. The focus then switches mainly to the cricketing aspect with the mention of the record hovering about once in a while. While the players and management are pragmatic about it (at one point, they make it obvious that the home side needs to be in the final to achieve this record) or brush it off, the tournament organisers seem to be overly eager about it. (Nick Hockley, CEO of the tournament, says towards the end that it wasn’t all about the ‘record’, but the title of the documentary, and the number of times the ‘record’ is mentioned in it, makes one feel otherwise.)
The documentary maintains its focus around the Australian team’s performance in the 2020 T20 tournament. However, unlike The Test, another documentary on Australian cricket, it focusses much more sharply on the cricketing aspect, being able to chronicle the tournament in a manner where other teams and their players become a part of the narrative as well.
Given that the T20 World Cup is a short affair, the two-hour documentary is able to focus on each and every game featuring Australia, as well as some of the other important group matches. It excels in capturing the mood of the games from the home side’s perspective. The first game versus India is a rude shocker, with a lot of chatter and confusion surrounding the game; similar things happen after they slide to 10/3 versus Lanka. The documentary does well to highlight the muddled mindset of team in those games; on the other hand, tranquil music plays during the Bangladesh encounter and the World Cup final, when the team is far ahead and simply enjoying itself. Any sporting fan can attest that even a small mistake in a tough situation comes under the scanner while all is forgotten when the team is winning.
It also captures individual performances and thoughts of players like Beth Mooney, Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning and Megan Schutt. The interactions are enriched by the fact that they are about match circumstances, and what the player went through as they tried to prepare before and during the matches, and what their mindset was in the middle of the tournament. So, we have Meg Lanning discussing the pressures of modern-day press commitments on the players in the middle of a tournament (you won’t find many international cricketers admitting that); Beth Mooney, who is pretty honest about what she thinks about her place in the team and how she deals with some of the funny press queries; and Megan Schutt, who talks about the importance of the final day numbers for the players – how the people who turn up in thousands will be there to watch them alone and not as a part of a double-header (a reference to the usual practice of clubbing knockout contests for men and women on the same day).
As we gradually move towards the knockouts stage, the action picks up. We learn more about the human aspect of the game. It is funny to see them all sticking to the weather apps on their phones, waiting and hoping for the rain to go away, even after coach Matthew Mott has advised them to not do so. At another point, they discuss how they started following the game and fell in love with it, with cricket uniting these women belonging to diverse backgrounds.
Even though the documentary doesn’t focus much on background strategy and planning during the matches, it does a better job at ‘showing’ the cricketing aspects than The Test. The players discuss rash shots played or the kind of role they are expected to play through the innings. So Beth Mooney is told that she’s one of the best in terms of batting through the innings, Elyse Perry is missed by her teammates after she’s lost to an injury (she had already been carrying injuries during the tournament, yet decided to give her all for the team), Megan Schutt is gutted at one moment after dropping a catch but then returns to perform with the ball, and Meg Lanning’s steely resolve proves inspirational for Rachael Haynes as they carve out a rescue act against Sri Lanka.
At times, one does forget that Australia are one of the strongest contenders and favourites going into the tournament (being the defending champions), having won the World T20 championship on four previous occasions. We experience every misstep of Australia’s and the pressures that even the best feel. Sometimes, while watching the game and backing one specific team, we miss so many elements behind the game. These include the basic fact that all of these teams have players who have put in hard work to be where they are and have reached the world cup to compete and win the trophy.
The number on the final day isn’t breached but it reaches 86,174, an unprecedented number in women’s cricket around the world as well as women’s sporting events in Australia. The hosts lift the World Cup for a record fifth time.
The Record is a great example of what the game can do for many boys and girls. The documentary’s honest approach to showcasing the struggles and triumphs of these cricketers is what makes it a winner. The music, including the chirpy intro song, adds to the atmosphere. The well-made piece in itself can act as a gateway for many into the world of women’s cricket, because it captures beautifully the celebration of an exceptional World Cup event.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.