‘Standard of women’s cricket has to improve’

Shanta Rangaswamy… “The girls should play more number of matches before they take up national duty.”-G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

“The scrapping of the Under-16 category and the two-day format will prove detrimental to women’s cricket in the country in the long run,” says Shanta Rangaswamy in a chat with J. R. Shridharan.

She speaks the way she bats — straight. She is very clear in her thoughts about women’s cricket in India. Shanta Rangaswamy, the chairman of the women’s selection committee, says it is good that the Board for Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) took over women’s cricket in the country, but advocates a couple of important steps to take the game forward.

“The takeover (by the BCCI) saw the girls benefiting immensely. They are getting decent money and quality infrastructure to hone their skills. They are travelling comfortably and have trainers and physiotherapists to help them get back in shape. However, two decisions by the Board were against the growth of the game. The scrapping of the Under-16 category and the two-day format will prove detrimental to women’s cricket in the country in the long run,” says the 59-year-old Arjuna Award winner, who was in Vijayawada recently to witness the proceedings of the South Zone under-19 limited overs tournament.

Shanta has a strong reason to back the Under-16 cricket. “Career span of a girl in any sport is short. That includes cricket. As she will be preparing for the additional responsibilities like marriage, higher education and jobs, she should be blooded early. On many occasions, I saw girls preparing to hang their boots when they were just peaking,” she says.

She is of the view that the Under-16 cricket will help infuse confidence and prepare the girls for bigger challenges. “The girls should play more number of matches before they take up national duty.

“The women’s domestic calendar starts in November-December and ends in January. The season is less than 90 days and during the remaining nine months, the girls will be training without playing in any tournament. The need of the hour is more competitive tournaments and more exposure,” says Shanta.

Indian women’s cricket teamcelebrates the fall of a New Zealand wicket during a practice match ahead of the 2013 World Cup in Mumbai. According to Shanta Rangaswamy, India’s defeats against weaker teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka have come as a shocker.-PTI

She also suggests re-introduction of the two-day format. “The Board is not keen on promoting Test cricket. It is concentrating on ODIs and Twenty20 cricket. The scope for nurturing technique is less in short versions of the game. In fact, the girls are learning the game without learning the technique, which is sad. The two-day format gives sufficient time for the players to showcase their talent; it also teaches the sanctimonious principles of cricket — patience, teamwork and hard work.”

Shanta compares the two-day format to former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s five-year plan, which was meant to achieve long-term goals. “Before women’s cricket came under the BCCI fold, every year we used to tour some country and teams from other countries used to visit us. Now Test cricket has become passé,” she says.

Having played 16 Tests and 19 ODIs in her 15-year career, Shanta says technique is important even in modern-day cricket. “It is not all about brutal hitting. Rahul Dravid is a fine example. Though he justified his talent as a Test cricketer with his technique, he made his mark in ODIs and Twenty20 with his productive willow work. Technique plays a crucial role even in the slam-bang format,” she explains.

According to Shanta, players with poor technique may get away in domestic tournaments, but when playing against international teams they will be exposed.

“The performance graph of the Indian ODI team has taken a nosedive suddenly. India is now placed seventh in the ODI rankings list, which does not augur well for a country that calls the shots in world cricket. India’s defeats against weaker teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka have also come as a shocker,” Shanta says.

She also feels that the Board should do more with regard to promoting women’s cricket. “The Board should play a proactive role in promoting women’s cricket by constantly liaising with the media, both print and electronic. During our days, the print media played an important role in promoting women’s cricket. As the “founding mothers” of women’s cricket, players of my era constantly improved the standards to ensure the survival of the game.

“Indian women’s football started during the mid-1970s along with women’s cricket. But in no time, it went into oblivion as the standards dropped. Unless we improve our standard, the BCCI will not increase the number of tournaments. The ball is on our court,” says Shanta.