Sinha, Sharma welcome financial windfall

They would often dip into their pockets to sustain their association with the game. For Tarak Sinha and Vinod Sharma, two coaches who served women’s cricket with little monetary gains for their services, the financial windfall for the current team is a welcome development.

For Tarak Sinha, the financial windfall for the current team is a welcome development.   -  S. Subramanium

They would often dip into their pockets to sustain their association with the game. For Tarak Sinha and Vinod Sharma, two coaches who served women’s cricket with little monetary gains for their services, the financial windfall for the current team is a welcome development.

“It was nothing but passion to play cricket that drove most girls two decade ago. Of course, there was the compelling attraction of landing up a government job (with Air India or Railways) but I have seen the difficult days when they would even spend to play the game,” remembered Sinha.

Coach of the team for two seasons beginning 2001, Sinha travelled to England, New Zealand and South Africa with the team during times when the game was governed by the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI). “Making a mark was the driving force. Mithali (Raj) and Jhulan (Goswami) were in their debut seasons and held lot of promise. Hemlata (Kala) was the one to watch. Mithali was a compulsive strokeplayer and I made her understand of putting value to her wicket. I am delighted to see her grow into one of the finest woman cricketers of all time,” said Sinha.

Sharma spent two decades in Railways trying to spot talent and groom them. It was former Board president Madhavrao Scindia’s initiative (as Union Railways Minister) to focus on women cricketers. “In 1985 we formed a women’s team and recruited promising cricketers from all over India. We won the Nayional championship in our first year. That was the beginning of a glorious run for Railways,” recalled Sharma.

Sandhya Agarwal, Gargi Banerji, Mithu Mukherjee, Sharmila Chakravarty, Shashi Gupta were some of the prominent teams of the Railways/India team then. “We introduced the inter-railway competition which grew with time. Today Railways has close to 500 women cricketers,” added Sharma. The current World Cup squad includes ten players from Railways.

Sinha and Sharma have gone through sessions with players and their parents to ensure the girls did not lose interest in the game. “Please remember there were hardly any incentives then. Even a track-suit was a luxury. On the 2002 tour of England, I noticed the off-spinner (Bindeshwari Goyal) did not have spikes because she had only played on hard grounds in Madhya Pradesh. We had to hurriedly organise one for her,” said Sinha, who hoped women’s cricket would gain attractive sponsorship after the showing at the ICC Women’s World Cup.

For Sharma such cases were plenty. “Match fee was Rs 1200 (for playing XI) and Rs 600 for the rest, including the coach. I never hesitated from making personal contributions. Playing cricket was considered taboo in many families and there was no point expecting financial help for the girls from their parents. We would have to cajole the parents many times. It is so pleasantly different now.”

Even as accolades poured in from all quarters for women cricketers, Sharma and Sinha hoped the momentum did not lose pace. Increased number of domestic tournaments is what they pleaded the Board to ensure.

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