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The golden age of Indian women’s cricket is upon us and the fans are ready to witness a coming-of-age story for a team that has been on the cusp of dominance for a couple of years.
The women representing the nation have once again solidified India’s status as a growing giant in international cricket with impressive performances over the last few years.
The 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup final loss followed by the loss in the 2021 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup reinvigorated the audience’s interest towards women’s cricket, which was further helped by the Gold Medal win in the Asian Games that didn’t come off as much of a surprise as India has won seven of the eight AFC Women’s Asia Cup titles.
Women and Willow
While England and Australia’s women’s cricket teams started playing international cricket as early as the 1930s, India was not able to set aside funds for women’s cricket as a newly independent nation, and women’s cricket was finally given a push in the 1970s.
The Women’s Cricket Association of India was formed in 1973 in Pune which helped India take its first footsteps in international cricket playing its first test match against the West Indies in 1976 and winning its first test match against the Caribbean side in 1978.
The 2005 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup was a landmark tournament for the Women in Blue as India made it to the final of the tournament held in South Africam which further ignited the talks of a revamp and restructuring of the women’s cricketing body in India.
After a couple of decades full of struggles for funds as men’s cricket grew parallelly enjoying all the fame and the wealth generation, the WCAI was merged with the Board of Cricket Control in India in 2006-07.
The 2007 ICC T20 World Cup triumph followed by the start of the Indian Premier League meant that the limelight was stolen by the men’s team again as the BCCI invested most of its funds in making the league a huge success.
From Struggles to Stumps
Women’s cricket faced several difficulties before becoming a part of mainstream culture as the priorities of the spectators and the administration lay elsewhere for several years.
- Grassroots feeder system: In India, patriarchal families don’t allow girls to venture out on their own and experience the world as a path of education and marriage is laid down for them limiting the number of prospects in every academy around the country.
- Lack of competitive fixtures: For many years, the India women’s national team had mostly ICC tournaments and a couple of limited-over series in their calendar, which limited the team’s potential. These days, the Indian women’s cricket team plays regular competitive cricket against top sides like Australia, South Africa, and England.
- Lack of proper training facilities: For several years, the women’s national cricket team in India trained on pitches and grounds not even suitable for collegiate cricket but the sudden rise in interest and broadcasting deals have allowed the board to provide better facilities over the last decade.
Champions of the Crease
Several women cricketers championed the spirit of cricket in tough times as the onset of the 21st century brought about a new dawn in Indian women’s cricket.
Neetu David is the current chairperson of the Indian women’s cricket team selection committee but the spinner was a top cricketer in her times.
David became the first bowler to reach the mark of 100 WODI wickets and also ended up as the highest wicket-taker of the 2005 ICC Women’s World Cup. The 46-year old also holds the record of the best Test figures in an innings by a female cricketer as she recorded the figures of 8/53 against England in 1995 almost taking India to the cusp of a historic victory.
Mithali Raj made her debut for the national team in June 1999 and went on to captain the Indian team as early as 2005 leading the nation to a first-ever Women’s World Cup final. In 2006, Raj also led her side to the first-ever test series victory against England.
The batter has scored numerous runs over the course of her career and is the only cricketer to score more than 7000 WODI runs. Raj also has the most number of half-centuries in the WODI format and is also the only batter to score seven consecutive WODI half-centuries.
While Mithali ruled with the bat in hand, Jhulan Goswami was a magical operator with the ball in hand. Goswami made her WODI and Test debut in the 2002 home series against England as a teenager impressing everybody with her skills.
In 2018, the fast bowler became the first to reach 200 WODI wickets and also holds the record for most wickets in ICC Women’s World Cup history helping India reach the final of the 2005 and the 2017 editions of the quadrennial tournament.
A Brighter Inning
The Indian national women’s team has a packed December schedule ahead of them as the Women in Blue hosts England in a three-match T20I series before a one-off four-day Test match against the English nation followed by another one-off four-day Test match against Australia.
The limited-overs series against Australia Women comprising of three WODIs and three WT20Is will be crucial for the girls ahead of the 2024 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup set to be held in Bangladesh between September and October.
The 2024 Women’s Premier League season is expected to be played in the February-March window, and it will be played across more venues across the country even if the home-away system is not followed in the second season. The franchise league will be crucial in developing talent for the Indian national team, especially in the shortest format as the Indian Premier League has done over the last few years.
The Women in Blue will try to ace the challenge on the grander stage in upcoming tournaments as an ICC trophy or a Commonwealth Games Gold Medal would assure the fans and the BCCI to develop more interest in women’s cricket.