Winners all: On women’s cricket in India - 25 July 2017 - The Hindu

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Source - The Hindu

The buzz around women’s cricket in India was never as heightened as it was during the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup. It reached a crescendo (a progressive increase in intensity) when India met England in the final at Lord’s in London. India lost, agonisingly (causing great physical or mental pain) by just nine runs. But not before it left its cricketers richer for the experience and for the fan base that expanded in the course of the tournament. Unlike in the past, the campaign was a show of the collective. Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami are towering figures and have carried the burden for more than a decade and a half. But under their shadows a space has been created for the likes of Smriti Mandhana, Punam Raut and Harmanpreet Kaur to grow. Raj topped the run charts with 409 runs and was only one short of the tournament leader, Tammy Beaumont of England. But Raut and Kaur, accounting for 381 and 359 runs, respectively, were no flashes in the pan. That these individual feats resulted in a wholesome uplift of the team’s quality when most needed — against New Zealand in a must-win game and against Australia in the semi-final following two resounding (unmistakable) losses to South Africa and Australia — illustrated the players’ powers of recovery and sense of occasion. As Raj put it, “I have seen the changes the girls have made. I’ve seen the transition. It will be a team that other teams will be looking out for. That’s what I’m proud of.”

Here lies the cue (a signal for action) to the future. India reached the final of the 2005 edition too. But the gains were mostly frittered (waste time, money, or energy on trifling matters) away. Raj and Goswami are the record holders for highest runs and wickets in one-day internationals. At the same time, the two have played a paltry (very small or meagre) 10 Test matches each. There has been neither a well-thought-out calendar of bilateral series and tournaments nor a competitive domestic structure as in England or Australia. One need not look further than Kaur to realise the role the Australian Big Bash League played in her development. When Raj called for a women’s Indian Premier League, it is this lacuna (an unfilled space) that she was pointing to. For all its ills (a problem or misfortune), nothing has democratised Indian men’s cricket the way the IPL has. There have never been this many accomplished cricketers drawn from diverse backgrounds across the length and breadth of the country. A similar league for women may still be far-fetched, but its potential to initiate a grassroots revolution cannot be understated. In the past month, what kept fans riveted was the imagery of Kaur’s hitting, Raj’s poise, Raut’s determination and Goswami’s perseverance, and in the increasingly visual times we live in, these are likely to stay etched. How Indian cricket harnesses this positive energy will be crucial. As the legendary Shantha Rangaswamy said in an interview to this newspaper, “There has to be a will. Without follow- up action, this interest will just evaporate into thin air.”