THE PICTURE LOOKS ROSY

THE INDIAN TEAM which won the Test series in England.-

No amount of financial assistance will help if a team doesn't produce results. In this context, India's splendid performance in England counts a lot, writes NANDITA SRIDHAR.

After years of working hard — taking wickets and scoring runs — the Indian women's cricket is finally on the path to better times. With the BCCI financially pitching in during the team's tour of England, where India won the Test series 1-0, the jubilant members are looking ahead to better times.

They need better infrastructure and the chance to play in some of the country's big stadiums.

Coach Sudha Shah is more than aware of the importance of this win. "It (the win) is really big for the team. This was the first time that we won a Test in England, and to win the series was great. It would have been even better if we had won the one-day series as well," she said.

JHULAN GOSWAMI... Woman of the Series.-

On the BCCI's contribution, she said, "The players were given $ 50 per day as allowance. Their match fee continues to be Rs. 1000 per ODI, and Rs. 2500 per Test match."

The role of the BCCI will be more vital in the near future, with the Indian team looking forward to better infrastructure.

"Earlier, an under-19 men's match would get priority over an international women's match, when it came to using grounds like the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium. But things look like changing," said Shubhangi Kulkarni, manager of the Indian women's team, and Secretary, Women's Cricket Association of India.

A video analyst for the team is also in the pipeline, while the National Cricket Academy may take a few women for coaching in the near future.

No amount of financial assistance will help if the team doesn't produce results. In this context, India's splendid performance in England counts a lot.

"The girls have worked very hard. Jhulan Goswami (who was adjudged Woman of the Series and became the first Indian woman to pick up 10 wickets in a Test) was the pick of the lot. She bowled her heart out, and stuck to a good line and length. She is definitely the best bowler in the world, and her 69 runs as a night watchman in the first Test (which ended in a draw), proved that she is capable of becoming an all-rounder. The best thing about her is that she doesn't rest on her laurels. She wants to do even better," said Sudha.

The team did fall short in the fielding and fitness departments, which cost India dearly in the one-day series. But there has been significant improvement when compared to previous standards, thanks to Dr. Hamsraj, who is also the Tamil Nadu team's physio.

India lost the one-dayers 0-4. Sudha admits that fielding and catching are the areas the players have to work on. "We should have held on to our chances in the one-dayers, but our fitness is definitely improving. Dr. Hamsraj has worked hard with the team and has improved the players' agility," she said.

"Each player has been given an individual workout schedule which they have to follow," said the coach. Besides Jhulan, encouraging performances came from Amitha Sharma, Preethi Dimri (who was making her debut), and captain Mithali Raj.

India, the defending champion, will look ahead to the Asia Cup in December, after which it will play in the quadrangular series, which also involves Australia, England and New Zealand.

"Women's cricket will become a part of the BCCI activity from next year, and the financial strength and expertise they have should help our cause a lot," said Shubhangi.

While the future of Indian women's cricket is set to improve financially, a lot more needs to done at the grass-root level, for the good performance to continue. "That is one area that we are working on. It would also be a good idea for the boys and girls to play together till they are about 12, which will help the girls," said Shubhangi. "The retirements of Neetu David and Anju Jain have left a huge void which will have to be filled by the youngsters," she added.

Any playing experience in England is incomplete without playing at Lord's. "It was great. I never got a chance to play there during my playing days, but for the girls, the experience of playing a one-dayer at Lord's will always be treasured," said Sudha. The team also quickly adjusted to the shorter version of the game, by winning the Twenty20 match against England.

What the Indian women never lacked in all these years was fighting spirit. A one-day series loss before the Test series did not dampen their hopes of a turnaround. They kept their spirits intact, pulled off a nail-biting draw in the first Test and won the second. "The girls were low after the one-day loss, but they lifted their spirits and came back very well," said Sudha.

Having climbed to number two in the rankings, just behind Australia, India is finally getting what it deserves.

THE SCORES One-dayers 1st ODI

England 253 for three in 48 overs (C. Taylor 156 n.o.) beat India 153 for seven in 48 overs (Mithali Raj 59)

2nd ODI

England 42 for two in 16 overs (match washed out)

3rd ODI

India 185 for six in 50 overs (Mithali Raj 73, Hemlatha 30) lost to England 188 for five in 49.2 overs (S. Taylor 65)

4th ODI

India 192 for eight in 50 overs (Mithali Raj 47, Anjum Chopra 53, Hemlatha 40) lost to England 195 for seven in 45 overs (Jhulan Goswami three for 20)

5th ODI

India 131 in 48.4 overs (Anjum Chopra 44) lost to England 133 for three in 37.4 overs

Tests Second Test

India 307 (S. Naik 25, Mithali Raj 65, Anjum Chopra 98, R. Dhar 43, I. T. Guha four for 61) & 98 for five (K. V. Jain 34) beat England 99 (C. M. Edwards 26, Jhulan Goswami five for 33) & 305 (C. M. G. Atkins 68, C. M. Edwards 105, B. L. Morgan 25, Jhulan Goswami five for 45).

First Test

England 223 (S. C. Taylor 32, C. M. G. Atkins 73, B. L. Morgan 30, Jhulan Goswami three for 46) & 345 for eight decl. (L. K. Newton 85, S. C. Taylor 115, C. M. G. Atkins 30, S. J. Taylor 28, B. L. Morgan 28, Preethi Dimri three for 75) drew with India 298 (Jhulan Goswami 69, Mithali Raj 47, H. Kala 69, L. K. Newton three for 57) & 187 for eight (K. V. Jain 29, R. Dhar 57, Amita Sharma 50, L. A. Marsh three for 44).