Women’s cricket gets its due

Even as Indian cricketers Shafali Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues gained attention on and off the field, the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup drew crowds like never before.

The opening match between Australia and India at the Sydney Showground Stadium had an attendance of 13,432, which is three times more than the previous best attendance for an international women’s cricket match in Australia.   -  AFP

Shafali Verma, a rockstar

Shafali Verma, all of 16, has earned herself a great many fans — men and women — with her flamboyant batting style. She scored 161 runs (29, 39, 46 and 47) in the group stage of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup at a magnificent strike rate of 161. That included a whopping nine sixes and 18 fours to help India reach the semifinals on an unbeaten streak. Twitter is abuzz with wonderment and awe of Verma’s batting, something that is usually reserved for male cricketers. Her aggressive batting, her devil-may-care approach and outrageous shots as an opener have led to comparisons with Virender Sehwag.

Even the man is mighty impressed, labelling her a rockstar and a special talent, and saying he was left amazed at her brilliant play. Sachin Tendulkar, V. V. S. Laxman and Nasser Hussain have all shared their admiration for the young talent from Rohtak.

Records rewritten

The opening match between Australia and India at the Sydney Showground Stadium had an attendance of 13,432, which is three times more than the previous best attendance for an international women’s cricket match in Australia. With 50,000 tickets already sold for the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup is already the most successful edition in history. According to an ICC release, the India-Australia opener was the “second most-watched women’s cricket match ever in Australia, and was on par with TV audiences in Australia for ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2015.” That one game generated more viewing minutes in Australia than the entire World Twenty20 in 2018 in the West Indies. Considering Australia is a four-time world champion and the most successful team in history, it was a promising indicator for the growth of women’s cricket in the country.

A dance party

Jemimah Rodrigues may not have had the kind of success Shafali Verma had enjoyed in the group stage, but she has built herself a large fan base with her off-the-field persona. Be it dancing with an off-duty security to a Bollywood song or teaching ball kids the Amitabh Bachchan step or the floss, she has mastered the art of being a social media star. Not to be left behind, the entire Indian squad has been spotted shaking their legs at different instances and enjoying the attention their on-field success and off-field acts have earned them.

Sport for development

What better platform than the T20 World Cup to aid a girls’ development project? As part of the ICC’s partnership with UNICEF, money raised via donations during the tournament will be used to promote girls’ participation in cricket in Sri Lanka and build peace in communities. The money will be used to promote similar projects in other cricket-playing nations, too. Apart from that, the ICC is also conducting team clinics as part of its Cricket 4 Good programme.

A series of firsts

The Sydney Showground Stadium hosted an international cricket match for the first time.

Thailand made its ICC World Cup debut.

The WACA Ground in Perth hosted its first women’s T20 International.

For the first time, a commemorative limited-edition $2 coin was issued featuring a female cricketer in Australia.

For the first time, Cricket Australia will top-up any prize money that the national team wins in the tournament to match the men’s purse in the tournament.