2017 has been a turnaround year for the women’s cricket in India. Sample this: Barely a dozen journalist were present at the press conference where Indian captain Mithali Raj outlined her plans for what was to be the biggest tournament of her career, before leaving for England in June 2017. On 26 July, more than 60 journalist and cameramen flocked to the Grand Ballroom of the JW Marriot in Mumbai, where Raj and her girls confronted the felicitation presser, less than three days after coming second best to England in a closely contested World Cup final.
England’s Anya Shrubsole celebrates bowling out India’s Jhulan Goswami during the Women’s World Cup final at the Lord’s on Sunday. Photo: ReutersHarmanpreet Kaur’s unbeaten innings of 171 against Australia in the semifinal has equal potential and more. Every six that came out of Kaur’s bat was a statement in itself- pushing the need for more recognition and better pay, telling corporate honchos that this team is capable of, stating in unequivocal terms that the BCCI needs to do more for Women’s cricket in the country and to do so immedietly. So what the opposition had Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry, Raj and her blue brigade were out there to seek immortality. The anger Kuar vent at nineteen year old Deepti Sharma for running slow towards the non-striker’s end was not so much because Kaur’s 100th run as at stack, but, as she later explained, was due to the significance she attached to Deepti’s wicket in the context of the game. Kaur, a senior member of the side, and the vice-captain was aware of the enormity of the occasion. Her outburst was as much a testimony to the currency she attributed to every run that was to be scored or conceded in the match by India as it was an outpouring of the collective angst of Indian sportswomen, who, for the longest time have been discriminated against. Going back to Kaur’s innings of 171 had done far more than just take India to the final of the World Cup. It had given women’s cricket a new identity that it so badly needed. More importantly, others who nurtured a silent ambition to be the next Kaur or Raj, but stopped short of saying so due to the familial and other pressures, found a new voice.
On 23 July 2017, 11 Indian girls stepped on the hollowed turf at the Lord’s cricket ground, knowing they were on the cusp of history. Rather they were shaping history. Though they could not lift the trophy, however they changed the whole outlook of women’s cricket in India.
When the team lost, the buzz did not diminish. From the prime minister of India down to other high profile politicians, sports stars and Bollywood celebrities, social media was ablaze, celebrating the achievement of Raj and her team. The team had done enough to lift it out of oblivion and shove it right at the center of public discourse. Each of the players, stars in their own right, have been celebrated sinceWith the women’s World T20 Cup only months away, it is time to get behind the blue brigade one more time. Not the Indian women’s cricket team, but the Indian team. Kaur the T20 captain, leading an Indian team in Caribbean, will yet again galvanize the nation and corporate India will be forced to take notice. The women, lest we forget, are equal stakeholders in the decision making as the men. There is indeed enough momentum for a revolution. Only it should not get sttymied by our penchant for not effecting structural change.
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