Celebrating the present and the exciting future of India’s women’s cricket team The Indian women’s cricket team is on the cusp of something historic during their ongoing travels Down Under. Beginning September 30, they would have played their first-ever pink-ball Test, something that only two other women’s teams in the world have accomplished thus far. […]
Celebrating the present and the exciting future of India’s women’s cricket team
The Indian women’s cricket team is on the cusp of something historic during their ongoing travels Down Under. Beginning September 30, they would have played their first-ever pink-ball Test, something that only two other women’s teams in the world have accomplished thus far.
This will also mark the Women in Blue’s second big Test match this year, after playing out a well-earned draw on their tour to England in June. That series also ended a wretched spell for the Indian team that had not played on foreign soil since the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final against hosts Australia on March 8, 2020 (their second back-to-back final after losing out to champions England in the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup).
This run included a 364-day spell without any cricket, the blame for which runs deeper than just the pandemic. The preparations for the 2020 season of the IPL and the following men’s tour to Australia coincided with inferior communication about training camps etc for their women counterparts. Even their domestic season began two months after the men while they went into the South Africa series at home (their first since the T20 WC final) with just three training camps under their belts.
The absence of a body, advocating the interests of active Indian women’s cricketers, hasn’t helped either. Notwithstanding these obstacles though, Mithali Raj & Co. put up a spirited display in their 2-1 ODI and T20I series losses in England. The peak of their resilience was displayed in the one-off Test, which featured critical performances from almost all of their five debutants.
The fact that they could even have won that drawn Test was testimony to the riches of talents in the team’s ranks. Wisden had blamed ‘no context, no domestic structure, and zero opportunities in the domestic game to hone their redball skills’ for the lack of a killer instinct.
The rough edges were also visible in their showings during the 2-1 ODI series loss to Australia in September. The responsibility though extends beyond the players, who deserve nothing but admiration for thriving in neglect. After all, what you feed will flourish and what you neglect might perish. But also, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and that’s what this team is all about. Here’s a celebration the present and future of India’s women’s cricket:
The 2017 World Cup turned a leaf for women’s cricket in India as they almost pipped hosts England in the final. One of the key architects of this runner-up journey, and now among BCCI’s elite Grade A contract-holders, Mandhana’s life also turned around after a couple of Player of the Match performances at the tournament. The Sangli-born 25-year-old has since established herself among the top 10 batters in women’s cricket in both ODI and T20I ratings.
“We had changed seven homes [while growing up] before we were able to buy this house,” the Arjuna awardee had said of her humble beginnings in a home tour earlier this year. “When I was 16, I invested most of my earnings from playing cricket into building a cemented wicket in Sangli,” she had said. Indian cricket’s blue-eyed girl comes from a tightly-knit family, with whom she “loves to spend the most amount of time.” With an ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year award in 2018, a recent callup from the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) in Australia, and a social media following of more than five million, Mandhana truly is the face of women’s cricket in the country today.
“In 1995 there was barely one girl practising [in Agra’s premier stadium], and now, there are more than 150,” a coach had underscored Yadav’s impact on the sport’s increasing popularity among young women of the region, in 2018. It was the year that the 1991-born leg-spinner reached as high as number two in ICC T20I rankings for bowlers. She continues to feature in the top 10 bowlers, in both white-ball formats.
In her early years, Yadav was often underestimated because of her five-foot-one frame, but her mother had once said that the boys in the neighbourhood were, in truth, worried about facing her tenacious daughter’s bowling. The 2019 Arjuna awardee has turned this innocuous demeanour into her strength, by deceiving batters with her flight and googlies. She continues to be a key part of the team’s bowling attack across all formats, and is one of only three Grade A members of the squad.
The 32-year-old all-rounder has earned a fearsome reputation as an explosive match-winner, as demonstrated by her popularity in global T20 leagues. The prime showcase of her abilities came in the form of a 115-ball 171 against Australia in the semi-final of the 2017 World Cup. It’s been hailed as the greatest World Cup knock by an Indian since Kapil Dev’s 175 against Zimbabwe in the historic 1983 World Cup. In 2018, she also went on to become the first woman to score a T20I hundred.
The former number one ODI batter comes from a family of athletes in Punjab’s Moga. “The harder my trainer pushes me, the more I enjoy training,” she had once said, revealing her relentless approach to the game. The only thing that scares the intimidating cricketer is a ghost story or two, Mandhana had once revealed about her Grade A compatriot, and fellow Arjuna awardee. Opposition bowlers, take notes.
“She’s also a star,” said the Sydney Thunders coach Trevor Griffin after WBBL champions recently called up Sharma for her maiden outing in the tournament. “She offers a lot with the bat — Deepti is a matchwinner — and she also has the talent to bowl in the powerplay, during the middle of a match, or at the death.”
The 24-year-old all-rounder, also a cricket product of Agra, was one of the most economical bowlers in the recently concluded inaugural edition of The Hundred. She claimed 10 wickets for London Spirit, conceding a frugal 5.26 runs per over. With the bat, she holds the record for being part of the first-ever 300-run partnership in women’s cricket. She partnered with Punam Raut to score 320 for the opening wicket against South Africa in 2017. As she establishes herself as one of the best white-ball all-rounders in the world and her versatility harbours global attention, it’s safe to assume that Sharma’s best years lie ahead of her.
Speaking of promising Indian cricketers, meet Shafali Verma — the youngest ever cricketer (male or female) to represent Team India in all three formats. What’s more? She’s currently the number one T20I batter in the world; she notched up the highest-ever score by an Indian woman on Test debut; and is also the youngest-ever halfcenturion for India. Surely, not many of us had that sort of a CV at age 17.
There have been sacrifices on this journey, though. “I miss my pizza and Doraemon,” the kid inside of her blue jersey had said, in an interview, last year. “Now my diet includes more vegetables. I did not know much about these things before. But when you play at the international level, you learn a lot from your seniors, and the fitness trainers constantly work on your bodies.” The teenager continues to impress with her batting skills and work ethic, making her one of the cricketers to watch out for in the coming decade.
BCCI’s 2018 Junior Indian Woman Cricketer of the year, Rodrigues is another one of Team India’s post-2000 prospects. At a very young age, she moved from the Bhandup suburb of Mumbai to Bandra to seek better sporting facilities.
In 2017, Rodrigues became only the second woman to score a double century in a 50-over cricket match (202* off 163 balls against Saurashtra). More recently, she was among the premier picks for The Hundred’s opening edition. Amassing 249 runs in seven innings for the Northern Superchargers, the 21-year-old ended the tournament as its second-highest run scorer, and also with the best strike rate (for players with 150-plus runs). Another one to keep an eye on for the future.
“She is a gem of a cricketer from the region. With her performance, she has managed to establish herself as an eminent face of cricket in Siliguri and in Bengal as a whole,” veteran Bengal coach Jayanta Bhowmik said of Ghosh’s impressive recent debut in Australia. The 2003-born Siliguri youngster was the first-choice wicketkeeper in India’s bilateral ODI series Down Under, ahead of Taniya Bhatia.
Apart from her glovework, Ghosh provides an added attacking option with the willow, floating across the batting order. Her inclusion and increased opportunities on the tour to Australia could indicate a change of guard behind the stumps, at least in ODI cricket. Indian fans know all too well about successful wicketkeeper batter stories over the years.
Thanks to her glorious 19-year-long career, Goswami’s reputation precedes her. If there were a Hall of Fame for women’s cricket in India, the veteran pacer would be one of the first names to feature on it. A Padma Shri, an Arjuna award, the ICC Women’s Player of The Year award, most wickets in ODIs, the list of her achievements could make for a separate article.
With nothing left to prove, the 38-year-old continues to inspire young Indian cricketers. She was declared the Player of the Match in Team India’s two-wicket win over Australia in the final ODI of the tour — picking up three wickets and then scoring the winning runs in the last over. In the dressing room, she doubles up as a mentor for the new generation of Indian pacers, which is yet to produce an able heir to her undisputed throne.
One of the greatest, if not the greatest, women batters of all time, Raj has been a stalwart of the game. The 38-year-old batter has been pioneering women’s cricket in India for more than two decades since her international debut in 1999. The woman with most runs in the game, and the only Indian captain to have led the side in two 50-over World Cup finals, the only major distinction that eludes the incumbent ODI skipper is the WC winners’ medal. In the twilight of her illustrious career and with the next World Cup scheduled for March 2022, the living legend will definitely be out to change that next year.