Low-key return for champion

Published : Apr 04, 2009 00:00 IST

The Victorious England team with the World Cup.-AP
The Victorious England team with the World Cup.-AP

The Victorious England team with the World Cup.-AP

As triumphant homecomings by World Cup-winning teams go, it was pretty low key. There was no open-top bus parade, no Downing Street reception - just an air of understated satisfaction at a job well done as England's women cricketers paraded the trophy at Lord's cricket ground in London. By Owen Gibson.

Edwards and her team will get the chance to show off in public in Taunton, southern England, where the women's set up has its permanent base, and the trophy will tour other county grounds as part of a campaign to further boost the women's game.

There were plenty of bleary eyes on show, but they were the result of an overnight flight back from Australia rather than any particularly raucous celebrations. Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, said that in contrast to their male Ashes winning counterparts four years ago there were "no thousand-yard stares".

Clarke, desperate for some good news after a winter dominated by criticism over links with Sir Allen Stanford and under-par performances from the men's team, was also at the final and promised increased investment and profile for the women's team.

The England team is the only one in the world that enjoys the benefits of semi-professional status, with several of their number - including captain Edwards - combining playing with coaching in schools under the ECB's Chance to Shine scheme. The team has had a full-time head coach in Mark Lane since March 2008.

Clare connor, The ECB's head of women's cricket and a former England captain, said: "The opportunity this success has given us is huge and we have to have a clear plan about how we capitalise on that in terms of promotion." The team's sponsorship deals are up at the end of this season and Clarke said the ECB would seek separate sponsors for the women's team that could invest in growing it.

Claire Taylor, who scored 324 runs in Australia and was named Player of the Tournament, said that it was important to make sure that clubs were ready for an influx of girls coming in at the bottom of the game.

The UK's culture secretary, Andy Burnham, present at the Lord's reception, said he hoped it would act as a "breakthrough moment" ahead of this summer's ICC World Twenty20 in the UK, where the women's semifinals will take place alongside the men's.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009* * *A MEMORABLE OUTING

Notable among the positives that India took home from its third place finish at the ICC Women’s World Cup was beating Australia twice. “It was pleasing, considering that we lost to them in the final last time,” says coach Sudha Shah. “This was also the first time we beat Australia in Australia. We played a series there in October — five matches, lost all five. But when it really mattered, we beat them twice.”

Incidentally, the only two sides India lost to were the finalists — England and New Zealand. The manner of the loss to New Zealand in the Super Six, which denied India a place in the final, rankles Shah. “Our fielding really let us down in that match; we could have won had we fielded better,” she says.

Among the costly misses that day was a catch dropped in the slips by Mithali Raj, off opener Kate Pulford, who anchored New Zealand’s chase with 71, when on 22. That aside, Raj had a wonderful tournament, finishing it as India’s sole representative in the top ten run-getters list, with 248 runs including two fifties.

“Mithali has been a mainstay. Her innings against Sri Lanka (an unbeaten 75 out of India’s total of 137) was one of the better knocks I’ve seen. She makes batting look so easy,” says Shah. “But it wasn’t just her. Someone or the other always chipped in. Anjum (Chopra) scored runs, Anagha (Deshpande) scored runs. Reema Malhotra made a half-century (a 52-ball 59 against New Zealand).”

India’s young bowling unit displayed depth as well as a neat balance between seam and spin. While leg spinner Priyanka Roy, slow left armer Gouher Sultana and medium pacers Rumeli Dhar and Amita Sharma picked up the bulk of the wickets (40 between them), Shah makes special mention of skipper and lead seamer Jhulan Goswami. “Jhulan was very consistent. They weren’t able to play her freely, and no one took chances against her, which is probably why she didn’t get as many wickets as the others.”

With an average age of 24, the promise this squad holds enthuses Shah. “The next World Cup is in India. We’re a very talented side. If we start preparing right away, we are definitely capable of winning it.”

Karthik Krishnaswamy

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