When looking back at the inaugural U19 Women’s T20 World Cup, history will deservedly place Indonesia, during their watershed cricketing moment, next to cricket’s giants.
Despite three defeats in as many outings thus far at the tournament, Indonesia have enjoyed numerous highlights to show the team are not simply making up the numbers, but rather showing glimpses of a bright future.
In the field, Indonesia are right at home. Taking a number of wickets with disciplined and well-drilled lines and lengths, the bowlers have been backed up by energy in the field as typified by Desi Wulandari’s incredible one-handed grab to remove Ireland’s Rebecca Gough.
With the bat, competitive action has been invaluable. Ni Luh Ketut Wesika Ratna Dewi’s 34 against Ireland exuded class, while a range of shots, most notably Kadek Ayu Kurniatini’s emphatic cut, gave us a taste of what is to come.
In Bahasa Indonesia, there’s a proverb: “Berakit-rakit ke hulu, berenang-renang ke tepian. Bersakit-sakit dahulu, bersenang-senang kemudian”.
Literally, it translates to: “Rafting to the headwaters, swimming to the riversides. It is painful at first, but victorious in the end”.
Essentially, without pain, there is no gain.
The beauty of Indonesia’s World Cup campaign is that they’re experiencing simultaneous cycles of the joys and pain, albeit at different stages.
On the one hand, Indonesia’s defeats lend themselves to a learning process, and stronger results in the future. But on the other hand, their participation is the fruit of decades of effort to establish cricket in the country, now so emphatically vindicated.
Indonesia has a unique introduction to cricket, with records of the game being played as far back as the 1880s, curiously by Dutch colonists. Documents go as far as suggesting a match was cut short by the eruption of Mount Krakatoa in 1883, and multi-sport clubs playing football and cricket were established in the 1890s.
Cricket’s flame was kept alive after Indonesia’s 1947 independence largely through expatriate communities, though faced dips in popularity throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The game at one point looked to be lost in obscurity, though a lifeline came in 1981 when the International Sports Club was established.
In the 1990s, it saw arguably its biggest push, from a man considered the godfather of modern Indonesian cricket, Bruce Christie, a veterinary scientist who had moved to West Timor in 1995. A handful of protégés under Christie went on to run the national governing body that received ICC Membership at the turn of the millennium, providing the platform of what Persatuan Cricket Indonesia is today.
Leagues in Jakarta, Bali, Banten and West Java have continued to build as centres for cricket in the country, and in 2009 Indonesia won the Best Development Programme award by the ICC for its grassroots work. Around 125,000 Indonesians now play some form of recognised cricket, either in schools or in over 110 clubs.
In the last six years, their rafting and swimming has delivered results. The men’s national side put a 2017 South-East Asian Games bronze medal in their cabinet, though it is their women’s team that are leading the way and in turn their women’s U19 squad at the country’s first ever ICC global tournament.
Not only with a silver in the corresponding women’s event (only beaten by Thailand), with T20I status across all ICC Members since 2017, Indonesia have gone on to beat several teams across the Asia and East Asia-Pacific regions, most notably Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Holding their nerve in pressure situations, their women’s U19 team exhibit a level of confidence. In the final match of a three-game series to decide East Asia-Pacific’s World Cup representatives, regional giants and favourites Papua New Guinea needed just two runs off the final over with two wickets in hand.
With the match and qualification on the line, up stepped Kurniatini with two wickets off the first two balls of the over to close the game and punch Indonesia’s ticket to their first ever ICC global event.
For former New Zealand international and commentator Frankie Mackay, at the tournament as Indonesia’s mentor, their enthusiasm and confidence was easy to see.
“The passion they speak about that tournament and qualifying, and what it meant to them and their family and their country as well, it’s been special to be a part of,” Mackay said during the team’s lead-in.
“Hearing how they want to develop their cricket and improve their games and they’re just sponges – they want to learn, they want to get better, they want to grow. They want to take on the best teams.”
There’s more to the Indonesia team than the sum of their parts. Like many others at the tournament, one can argue Indonesia and others have almost taught older generations how to play the game. From standing on the boundary and well-wishing their opening pair before battle, to team celebrations for boundaries or wickets, Indonesia have fronted up to their opponents, giving nothing when push comes to shove.
On top of their fundamentals, for Dewi, Mackay’s knowledge has been paramount.
“We’re very happy having coach Frankie with us, because she’s very helpful for me and my team,” Dewi said.
“(She’s) always giving support or motivation and gives a positive vibe.”
Standing in front of Indonesia at the placement playoff is Zimbabwe, a side they do have winning form against thanks to wins in both official and unofficial warm-up meetings.
For Dewi and her team, confidence is not lacking and a win would cap off a tournament full of positive signs, and point to a bright future.
“We’ll try our best for the tournament because we come here to win,” Dewi proclaimed before the tournament started.
“We always try our best and I hope we can win.”
Rafting to the headwaters, swimming to the riversides. It is painful at first, but Indonesia will be victorious in the end.