Great Step FORWARD
They may have proved their mettle by entering the World Cup final. They may have made cricket lovers sit up and take note of them.
Still, much needs to be done to popularise and promote women's cricket in the
country, writes Vikramdeep Johal
The Indian team has an inspiring captain in 22-year-old Mithali Raj, who braved a strained knee to play in the
few days before the 2005 Women’s Cricket World Cup began, a schoolgirl
from Patiala, Tarika, wrote a letter to The Tribune expressing her
displeasure at the excessive media coverage of men’s cricket. She
found it unfair and unreasonable that star players’ visits to salons
or temples became big news, while Mithali Raj’s record-breaking
batting performance did not.
Now here was a rare
youngster who wasn’t dazzled by every move made by the men in blue.
She was curious to read about women cricketers and their achievements.
Her wish was fulfilled to some extent as the Indian eves forced the
media and cricket lovers to shrug off their disinterest and take notice
of the team’s sterling show in South Africa. Led from the front by
Mithali Raj, who scored 199 runs in the tournament, India defeated
England, South Africa, Ireland and the West Indies on their way to the
Anjum Chopra is one of India’s most experienced batswoman, having played over 70
Then they outplayed defending champions New Zealand, who had
beaten them in the league phase, to enter the final for the first time.
The eves were routed by Australia in the title clash, losing by 98 runs,
but not before proving that they were no less than their male
In fact, they performed marginally better than the men,
who lost by 125 runs in the 2003 World Cup final to Australia.
Their dream run has
generated a bit of excitement in the country, but it mustn’t be
forgotten that all is not well with women’s cricket in India.
The Indian media has
often given a raw deal to the women cricketers. Not surprisingly, the
coverage of the 2005 World Cup left a lot to be desired.
stories about India’s league matches were short and sketchy and the
scorecard was conspicuous by its absence.
The Indian eves need to perform well consistently to attract the attention of the media and the public.
No photos were available of
these encounters. It was only from the semifinal onward that detailed
stories, scorecard and pictures began to appear.
Worst of all, there was
not even a single item about the event in recent issues of India’s
leading sports magazine.
As far as the electronic media is (un)concerned,
no highlights were shown, forget about live telecast.
Lack of sponsors and
shortage of funds have always been the major factors hindering the
growth of the women’s game in the country.
Cricket Association of India formed under the presidentship of
Begum Hamida Habibullah
National Women’s Cricket Championship held in Pune
miss the first Women’s World Cup in England as the team fails
to apply in time
Jhansi Trophy, the inter-zonal limited overs tournament, held in
invite New Zealand for a series and also pay the air fares of
the touring team
record their first Test win by defeating West Indies at Patna
host the second World Cup but finish fourth (and last) behind
Australia (the winners), England and New Zealand
England under-25 team visits India. The then Prime Minister,
Indira Gandhi, a firm supporter of women’s cricket, herself
welcomes the team members on their arrival
women tour England. Sandhya Agarwal sets a national Test record
by scoring 190 at Worcester
spinner Neetu David sets a world record for most wickets in a
Test innings with her haul of 8-53 against England at Jamshedpur
beat New Zealand to win a one-day series for the first time
host the World Cup for the second time. A record 11 countries
take part in the tournament sponsored by Hero Honda. The final
between Australia and New Zealand at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata
is witnessed by about 80,000 spectators
Ahir smashes an unbeaten 166 in a one-dayer against SriLanka at
Agra as India pile up 301 for 4 in 50 overs
enter the World Cup semifinal but lose to hosts and eventual
winners New Zealand
n India win
their first Test on foreign soil against South Africa
Raj hits a record-breaking 214 in a Test against England at
defeat New Zealand 4-1 in a home series
n India win
the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka
lose 3-4 to Australia in a one-day series on home soil
n India beat defending
champions New Zealand in the World Cup semifinal; Lose to
Australia in their first-ever final
The Women’s Cricket
Association of India (WCAI) has often found it hard to get financial
help from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which is
incidentally the richest cricket board in the world.
Moreover, the WCAI
and the BCCI function as separate entities, while in Australia, New
Zealand, England and South Africa, the women’s associations have
merged with the men’s board.
In a welcome move, the
International Cricket Council recently brought the International Women’s
Cricket Council under its umbrella. With merger being the in thing in
the cricket world, what is the Indian board waiting for?
Sadly, despite their
fairly good performance over the years, the women’s team has attracted
Sahara India boosted the morale of the team on the eve of
the 2005 World Cup by signing a three-year sponsorship deal with the
The outcome of this backing is plainly visible. However, more
sponsors are needed to maintain the momentum.
If Sania Mirza can give
Sourav Ganguly and Co. a run for their ad money, why not Mithali Raj or
even Neetu David, who was the highest wicket-taker in the World Cup with
Ironically, the most familiar female faces associated with
cricket on TV are those of non-cricketers like Mandira ‘Noodle straps’
Bedi and her Doordarshan clone Roshni Chopra.
Public interest is
another crucial factor. The women’s game may not be as fast and
furious as the men’s, but it is no less exciting or keenly contested.
(ICC President Ehsan Mani called the just-concluded World Cup ‘entertaining’).
The viewers can form an opinion about how good it is only if they get to
see the matches.
Vigorous promotion can attract people to the TV sets or
the stadiums, as one saw in the case of the Premier Hockey League.
The progress of Indian
women’s cricket depends a lot on the performance of the team in the
In the words of Diana Edulji, arguably India’s greatest
spinner of the fair sex, "It’s a vicious circle — unless we do
particularly well, we won’t get attention. And when we don’t get
attention, we can’t do well or attract youngsters to the game."
The eves must work
harder to iron out their flaws.
Australia were no doubt a formidable
side, but the Indian team had themselves to blame for the defeat in the
No less than four batswomen — Jaya Sharma, Anjum Chopra, Rumeli
Dhar and Hemlata Kala — were run out.
India have for long been the
fourth-placed team in the world, the top three being Australia, England
and New Zealand.
Buoyed by their World Cup heroics, they should try to
consolidate their place as the world’s second-best team and aim to
The confidence gained by victories in the one-dayers should
also help them to improve their showing in Test matches.
A big plus
point is that they have a young and able captain in 22-year-old Mithali,
who bravely decided to play in the all-important final despite a
Talking about remarkable veterans like Hemlata Kala,
Anjum Chopra and Neetu David, talented and committed girls are needed to
replace them when the need arises — with girls who love cricket, who
feel for women’s cricket, like Tarika.
— Photos: AFP/AP/PTI