A historic Test win

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

A HISTORIC Test win overseas by the Indian women cricketers failed to merit even one paragraph in the newspapers at home. The Women's Cricket Association of India claimed that a former scribe had accompanied the team to South Africa with the specific purpose of supplying news back to India. That he failed in his duty was pretty obvious but then WCAI would never learn lessons from past experience.

The victorious Indian team.-

If the girls do complain privately, can you fault them?

The Indian team undertook a short tour of South Africa with the schedule including four one-day internationals and a one-off Test at Boland Park. The Indians lost the one-day series 2-1 with one game washed out but they made history by winning the Test by ten wickets. It was the first ever Test win overseas by the women cricketers.

Skipper Anjum Chopra, who led by example, was obviously delighted. "It's a great feeling and we're still experiencing the joy. I can't put it in words to tell you the truth," she said, giving the entire team the credit for the wonderful triumph.

Not many may take women's cricket seriously but the fact that the tri-colour fluttered proudly at Boland Park put things in the right perspective. As Anjum aptly put it "it was a victory for India and not just for us. We all knew our countrymen would rejoice in our success and that was a comforting thought."

For coach Tarak Sinha the tour once again proved that he had the quality to motivate the team and hone the skills in time for the girls to give their best. "The team played brilliantly. We lost the one-day series because the girls were not aware of the rain-rule (Duckworth & Lewis) which was applied. We lost two matches because the target was revised but won when there was no rain-intervention," said Sinha.

For the team, it was a very significant tour. It was an achievement which meant a lot for the players. The victory raised hopes of recognition for them and it also created visions of a better future. "We don't ask for much. All we want is recognition for our efforts," pleaded Anjum on behalf of her mates.

The Indian skipper, busy meeting demands of the print and electronic media on her return, described the Test win as the most significant moment for women's cricket in India. "Keeping in mind the fact that the next World Cup is to be held in South Africa, I think it was an important tour. We have seen the kind of conditions we would encounter and would be better prepared for the bigger event. This series was a good exposure. Winning a Test overseas was what we had been aiming for and such a result is always nice," said Anjum.

The media coverage in South Africa was poor. So it was in India too. but Anjum had no complaints. "We did not go to South Africa to get attention from the media. Our job was to play good cricket and justify the faith reposed in us by our supporters. With this win we've proved part of our potential," Anjum said.

It was a cakewalk for the team as the result suggests. The Test win was achieved with just 2.3 overs in hand. The Indians elected to bat and posted a decent total of 404 for nine declared. Hemlata Kala (64), Mithali Raj (55), Anju Jain (52), Mamta Maben (50) and Deepa Kulkarni (40) followed the example set by a very committed Anjum, who made her first half century in six Tests. "I'm so happy it came at the right time," said Anjum, who compiled 80 in a disciplined manner. It was her innings which motivated the team to raise its level.

South Africa was skittled for 150 in the first innings with left-arm spinners Deepa Kulkarni (three for 14) and Neetu David (two for 41) excelling with the ball. Forced to follow-on, South Africa managed 266, just avoiding an innings defeat. A. Hodgkins (77) and S. Vijoen (71) were the main scorers for the home team while the Indians struck through seamers Hemlata Kala (three for 18) and Jhulan Goswami (three for 63), Neetu (two for 78) and off-spinner Bindeswari Goel (two for 23).

The South Africans had two wickets in hand in the fifth mandatory over. It was here that Anjum fellback on what she described as a surprise packet - Hemlata Kala. The energetic Hemlata, with her medium-pace, took the last two wickets and the Indians were left with a comfortable target of 13 runs in four overs. Anjum and Mithali rattled off the runs in just nine balls.

"It was a fantastic team effort and I must say Anjum proved a very capable leader. She led by example all through the tour," gushed Sinha. "Hemlata swung the Test match our way. It was getting very frustrating but credit to the girls for keeping their cool. The team played exceptionally good cricket in the Test," added Sinha.

For Jhulan, the performance earned her an invitation to play professional cricket in Western Province but the Kolkata-based cricketer politely turned down the offer. "She can't stay away from her family for six months," said Sinha.

Anjum now has a request. "I would request the media to support our cause and request sponsors to help us achieve our goals. This is a good beginning and we must not allow it to die. Women's cricket has the promise to bring greater glory and I would request the authorities concerned to give us greater recognition."

The Indian team now prepares for a tour to England, starting first week of July. The tour will also take the girls to play competitive cricket in Ireland. "We're looking forwrad to that series now. The win in South Africa has given the girls the confidence to do well overseas and we are keen to maintain the good feeling of having done well away from home," Anjum concluded.