India’s perseverant champions bask in rare moment of spotlight

The girls have emerged from obscurity and official apathy in their journey to embrace glory.

India defied the odds to defeat Australia in the semifinal on Thursday.   -  AP

Harmanpreet Kaur, Mithali Raj, Ekta Bisht, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Smriti Mandhana, Punam Raut, Deepti Sharma…All household names now, seeking to script history at Lord’s, the venue where India stunned the cricket world in 1983 when Kapil Dev’s team beat the formidable West Indies and won the World Cup.

The girls are champions already. Even before the first ball has been bowled in their ICC Women’s World Cup final against England on Sunday, the girls have landed a cash award of Rs. 50 lakh each for their monumental feat. Few had backed them. The country shall root for them on the day of reckoning.

The girls have emerged from obscurity and official apathy in their journey to embrace glory. Few spared a thought to promote and support women’s cricket. Sponsorship was just a fantasy as they plied their trade at home and away, toiling to convince their supporters and detractors that they had the skills and endurance to be one of the best if not the best. They are a mere step away from the summit.

Comparisons have been drawn between Harmanpreet’s breathtaking 171 not out against Australia and Kapil Dev’s epic 175 not out against Zimbabwe in 1983. Good for the team and women’s cricket that some of the game’s stalwarts have gone out of the way to convey their appreciation. The girls have waited long for such compliments.

Mandhana would maintain her cricket-playing brother’s scrap book until she decided to have one of her own. She also adapted to bat left-handed because her father preferred her to. She defied barbs of many orthodox natives of Sangli (Maharashtra) and pursued cricket as a career. Family supported Mandhana.

Eight of the team members could have their way at home to play cricket and it was essentially due to the job security that Railways provided them. Mithali is the icon for the game in India, rising from the days when they would be accommodated in dormitories of the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi. She is the shining symbol of women’s cricket even as Harmanpreet and Mandhana have risen to share space with Mithali.

There is no competition within the team. The girls stand for each other and nothing emphasises this camaraderie more than the collective effort in this game changing performance at the World Cup. Bowlers and batters have come together and stunned the cricket world. There are no individual stars. It is the team that matters and it is the team that shall matter on the biggest day for women’s cricket in India.

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