The score stood at 193 for 3, the target was 229. Nobody watching that match could have dreamed that this same team, which had trounced six times champion Australia by a whopping 36 runs two days earlier, would be bowled out for 219. It was heartbreaking for the Indians who watched in disbelief as the ladies crumbled under the weight of pressure of playing in an ICC World Cup Final, and their own inexperience.
**For Once Women Held the Centerstage
What was spectacular was that, for once the nation was watching the ladies battle it out at Lords — the Mecca of cricket to most lovers of the game. Many in this cricket-crazy country were hoping the ladies would achieve where the men had fallen short a little over two years ago. The valiant fight put up by the Indian women’s cricket team has brought back many supporters who had lost faith in Indian cricket after the matching fixing scandal broke.
When the men’s and women’s Twenty-20 World Cup fixtures were being hosted simultaneously in India in 2016, few people followed what the women’s teams were doing. It was probably befitting that both the West Indian teams lifted the Cup, practically simultaneously. However, this was a totally different story. When the Indian women’s cricket team left the country, nobody expected much from their campaign.
**The Twist in the Tale
People sat up and took notice when the women’s cricket team soundly thrashed Pakistan on July 2, 2017. The final scorecard read: India 169/9 in 50 overs; Pakistan bundled out for 74 in 38.1 overs, thus defeating them by 95 runs. It was a sweet salve for a nation which had watched aghast as an inexperienced Pakistani team vanquished the overrated Indian men’s team on June 18, 2017 by an astounding 180 runs! The defending champions had been squashed with a scorecard of 158 all out while the target of 339 runs became a distant dream.
The ladies were beginning to get their due attention and respect. When the Indian women’s team overcame New Zealand in the quarter finals, more and more cricket lovers began to sit up and take note of their triumphant march. The undreamt-of semi-final victory over the defending champions Australia meant that India would have to battle it out against England to seize the trophy for the first time.
**Records Stacking Up Thick and Fast
Notwithstanding the loss in the Finals, this World Cup will mark a milestone in the record books with Indian captain Mithali Dorai Raj becoming the first woman cricketer to score more than 6,000 runs in ODIs, and Jhulan Goswami becoming the leading wicket taker (195 scalps) in women’s ODIs. Mithali Raj also became the only woman cricketer to score seven back to back 50s in ODIs during this World Cup. Even amongst the men, only Jawed Miandad has scored more back to back half centuries (9) in ODIs, the next highest being Gordon Greenidge with six back to back 50s.
Those who revel in records would love to take note of Mithali being the only Indian captain — man or woman — to lead the team into the ODI World Cup Finals twice! Captain Cool, M. S. Dhoni led India to two World Cup victories, but they were in different formats. Harmanpreet Kaur’s 171 not out off 115 balls against Australia in the semi-finals, rewrote the record books as the highest ever individual score in the knockout stage of a Women’s
**Giving Reality to an Old Dream
When Shanta Rangaswamy captained the Indian women’s cricket squad in their first ever Test in 1976, and led them to their first Test victory in 1978, she inspired lakhs of Indian girls to try their hand at cricket too. Diana Eduljee led the debutant Indian women’s team in the 1978 ODI World Cup, hosted in India. With only four teams competing, the matches were played in a round robin league format. Unfortunately, India lost all three matches.
**Hopes for the future:
Though the Indian women fell short by nine runs in the 2017 ODI World Cup Finals; yet they gave shape to an old dream. Thanks to the closely fought match in which Punam Raut scored 86 runs off 115 balls, and Harmanpreet Kaur, the heroine of the semi-finals, scored 51 off 80, while Jhulan Goswami picked up three wickets conceding only 23 runs; the ladies announced that they are here to stay, and will give their competition a run for their money every time. With only three experienced members in the squad, they did an amazing job. Along the way, they have bolstered confidence in not only themselves, but in all Indian cricket lovers. Take not one, but several bows ladies.
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**Leading the Way
The ladies have never been behind the men in either playing international cricket, or in the limited edition of the game. In fact, the first edition of the World Cup was contested by the women in 1973 in England, two years before the men played for their first World Cup title in 1975. Till their merger in 2005, there were two separate International Cricket Councils — the International Women’s Cricket Council (IWCC), and the International Cricket Council (ICC) — to govern the game.
Financial challenges prevented the women’s World Cup being contested regularly as most national women’s cricket boards were cash-strapped. The merger came as a godsend for the women’s World Cups in both editions — 50-overs and twenty-20 — which are now conducted at appropriate intervals.
**Man Smart, Woman Smarter
The Australian women’s cricket team has beaten the men to it by lifting the Cup six times as against the men lifting it five times. The English ladies have been streets ahead of their male counterparts in this matter. The English women’s team has lifted the trophy four times, where the men have yet to open their account in the 50-overs edition of the game. Ditto for the New Zealand teams. The women have been victorious once, while the men have never lifted the ICC World Cup even once, though they were runners-up in 2015.
The Indian women have fallen short in the Finals twice: in 2005, and in 2017; unlike the men who lifted it twice: in 1983 and in 2011. From 1978 to 2017, they have marked a win percentage of 55.64, having won 34 out of 63 World Cup matches, lost 27, and tied once. There was no result in only one match.]
**Author **:-Kalopna Moitra
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