Big step forward for women’s cricket

Parents are now encouraging their daughters to take up sport thanks not just to the Indian women cricketers, but also other sporting icons like P. V. Sindhu and Sania Mirza.

Shafali Verma goes after the ball from the first over like Virender Sehwag used to do.   -  PTI

First things first. An honest confession. I really enjoy watching women’s cricket, especially the Indian women’s team. It could well be because my younger sister Nutan played a bit of cricket and I used to sometimes go and watch her. The seriousness with which they played at a time when not many took women’s cricket seriously was an eye-opener. Today, thanks to the efforts of those women cricketers, the current generation is enjoying perks and facilities that are almost on par with the men’s team. For starters, the women players are also on a retainer with the Board of Control for Cricket in India like the men, and while it’s understandable that there will be a difference in the fees as women’s cricket does not quite get the eyeballs and advertising interest and support that men’s cricket gets, the fact that some of them are on a retainer is a big step forward for women’s cricket.

Parents are now encouraging their daughters to take up sport because of the exploits of the Indian women cricketers, and also other sporting icons like badminton stars P. V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal and tennis champion Sania Mirza, as well as the wrestlers and shooters. Mirza is an inspirational story, especially the way she has come back after motherhood. Women have always been elegant in sport, but now they also bring a lot of power to their sport and that’s a lethal combination. To see Smriti Mandhana and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur hit the ball into the stands with such ease is a delight and the new kid on the block Shafali Verma has gone even better by doing so from the first over like Virender Sehwag used to do. The Sania Mirza forehand is fearsome as she gives it a real wallop, and to see Ashwini Ponappa jump high and smash the shuttle at blinding speed is to realise what power is. Sindhu’s speed and smashes were incredible when she won the world title last year, and the hope of a gold medal at this year’s Olympics is a genuine one.

P. V. Sindhu’s speed and smashes were incredible when she won the world title last year, and the hope of a gold medal at this year’s Olympics is a genuine one.   -  Reuters

 

The Indian women’s cricket team was the first to qualify for the semifinals of the ICC Women’s Twenty20 World Cup by winning all the matches in their group impressively. Their’s was a tough group with Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. However, they won their games with ease. The narrow defeat to England in the 50-overs World Cup in 2017 still rankles and this was a great chance to overcome that. The team has some exciting young players like Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues, while the two-time winner of the BCCI best women’s player award, Mandhana, is reeling off runs with ease and grace as usual. The one worry has been the indifferent form of skipper Harmanpreet, which wasn’t helped when she threw away a golden opportunity to get a good score against the Sri Lankans by throwing her wicket away unnecessarily. Still, the way the others, especially the bowlers, have won the games for India augurs well for the championship. In a way, the bowlers’ performances are reminiscent of the 1985 World Championship of Cricket where India’s bowlers led by the peerless Kapil Dev and embellished by the spin duo of Ravi Shastri and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan spun a web around the opposition batsmen to dismiss every team excepting in the final, where they captured nine wickets. The current Indian women’s attack has done exactly the same so far, with the spinners bamboozling the opponents and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

The one aspect that does stand out is the running between the wickets, and it stands out because that is where the team needs to improve vastly. Even in the finals in England a couple of years back, this was an area that was noticeable for its lack of speed. The boundaries are admittedly shorter and so it’s not easy to take the second run, but the Indian women struggle to take a quick second run and this can be a big difference between ending up scoring 135 and 150. Whether it is the leg-guards or the lack of muscle, it appears as if they don’t have the strength in their legs to take a quick second run, which is hampering them from getting the extra runs that can make the difference between a winning and a losing score. The calling also can improve for in just about every game so far, there has been a run out because of a misunderstanding.

This is not meant to be nitpicking, but a genuine concern so that they get better and better.

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