Cricket in South Africa is at a crescendo. The Indian men’s and women’s cricket teams touring there are making music that is not only excellent for the sport of cricket but has also shown South Africa as a wonderful tourist destination. Though, the Indian men’s cricket team has been playing some exciting cricket in South Africa, the performance of the Indian women’s team has been far more successful. They may not have got the same amount of coverage and media interest, but they deserve more.
The women’s cricket team won the ODI series against the South Africans, even though they did not get much time to acclimatise. Maybe there is some truth in the saying that women can handle different and difficult situations better than men.
The performance of women’s team in the 2017 World Cup has made them common household names. The tall, lithe and attractive girl from Sangli in Maharashtra, Smriti Mandhana’s batting performance in South Africa has been remarkable and very similar to that of Indian captain Virat Kohli. Mithali Raj, the ever-consistent Indian batter, is like a citadel that never seems to fail. She along with Harmanpreet Kaur, Poonam Raut and Veda Krishnamurthy presented a powerful batting.
Furthermore, the new entrant into the International scene, Mumbai girl Jemimha Rodrigues, has already shown her talent as a batter and looks to be the bright star of the future.
The record however, that one has to marvel at is from the die-hard fast Indian bowler, Jhulan Goswami. She achieved the feat of being the first women to get 200 wickets in Women’s One Day Internationals. Goswami, along with Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar and Rumeli Dhar will need to spearhead the Indian fast bowling attack and make it an effective force. The Indian bowling at present needs plenty of improvement, not only in their length and direction but also mentally.
Meanwhile, the Indian women’s side is leading 2-1 against the Proteas women in the 20-20 series being played there. India is on a better spot compared to their hosts and with just one game to go they should be back home without a blemish as they have won the one-day international series earlier.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) taking over the responsibility of Women’s cricket in India has been very beneficial for them. The players are now getting the best of the facilities for travel, allowances and equipment. The top players are now cricket stars with agents and consultants hounding them to better their finances. The women and young aspiring cricketers are now taking to the sport as a profession. Families are accepting them to play the sport and women’s cricket is truly on an ascend.
The ICC World Cup 20-20 in November 2018 in West Indies is the next important milestone for the women’s team. A win there could put them into the same league as the men.
Meanwhile, the BCCI have organised a zone-wise cricket tournament to unearth talent and this national women’s cricket tournament would be a good platform for women cricketers. India will be hosting Australia and England this summer and both these leading sides in women’s cricket, should enable the Indian side to get a better insight into what they will face later in the year.
Women’s cricket as a sport in India has finally got tremendous recognition. Furthermore, the Indian sports women are doing very well in their respective fields. Therefore, now cricket should not have much difficulty in becoming the iconic sport of Indian women.
There has been an acceleration that is quite astonishing in bringing women into the once sacred turf of the gentlemen’s game. Women are now coaches, commentators, match referees and part of the think tank of both men and women’s cricket in India. The shorter format of the game has given rise to cricket becoming a popular sport amongst girls and women. There is an equal number of them watching matches and following it now at the stadiums.
The area that one needs to improve in women’s cricket is their fitness, fielding and agility. The present Indian side requires to get fitter and faster. They need rigorous and process proven training. Although some of the girls have personal trainers, a programme to educate the youngsters on fitness and health is of prime importance. The Australian, England, New Zealand and South African women’s side look far stronger and more agile. This could be because of the facilities that they have while growing up in schools and in their neighbourhoods.
The other area of weakness is in their mental state when they are put into unfamiliar cricketing situations. This improves only with practice. They also need more interaction with former and current men and women Indian cricketers to make them much stronger.
It is heartening as a cricket lover to see the game flourishing well in every corner of India. The road to women’s cricket is now quite clear, it only needs the BCCI to make it more concrete. Thereafter, one wonders which one, men or women, will rule the roost.
(The author is a former India cricketer)