Yet again, there were crowds filling the pavements outside shops with TV sets
Yet again, there were people setting up special screenings for their neighbourhood
Yet again, there were friends and colleagues who made Sunday plans for a cricket match
Yet again, time stood still for a nation whose aspirations found a new inspiration
This used to happen in India when the men’s cricket team were on the field or when Sachin Tendulkar strode from the dressing room to the 22 yards. But the ‘New India’ exulted in breaking the stereotype that sport and men are synonyms. India witnessed a team of young and enthusiastic women cricketers taking centre stage in an all-important final at the temple of cricket- Lord’s.
Irrespective of the final result, these women have ushered in a new era where young girls will bat for change and development, an era where talent will prevail over the historical forms of suppression.
The performances by the cricketers throughout the tournament displayed the finest sense of teamwork. From being in a wheelchair four months ago to scoring 90 in the opening match against England, followed by an unbeaten 106 against West Indies, 21-year old Smriti Mandhana started the cruise for the Women in Blue. With scores of 71, 46, 53 and a sublime 109 against New Zealand in the all-important game, the legendary Indian captain Mithali Raj just showed age is just a number not impacting her passion to play for the nation. During the course of this tournament, Mithali also recorded a personal milestone of becoming the all-time highest scorer (6000+ runs) in women’s international cricket. From being the first Indian woman cricketer in the Women’s Big Bash league, Harmanpreet Kaur used her experience to notch up a match-winning 171 against the five time world champions Australia and progress to the finals of the tournament.
Not just these but India’s senior-most bowler Jhulan Goswami’s incredible economy rate, Deepti Sharma’s crucial 13 wickets, Veda Krishnamurthy’s big hits, Poonam Raut’s solid strike-rotation, Sushma Verma’s diligence and more contributed to this impressive campaign by the team.
The cricket team’s phenomenal performance which will go on to become an inspiration for budding sports enthusiasts has received constant support and encouragement from the Government. Initiatives to support the girl child through schemes such as Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana and Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao, have given women a new determination to excel in all spheres. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took time out of his packed schedule and keenly followed this tournament as well as whole-heartedly supported the women’s team. In a series of tweets before the match, the Prime Minister encouraged and appreciated each player and her respective strengths.
Yes, India fell short by a small margin to lift the crucial world cup trophy but that will not stop the nation from celebrating the heroics of these women who have created an audience for the sport and created a sense of belief in the heart of several youngsters that the nation is ready to accept sports irrespective of any gender bias. It was not until 2015 that these women cricketers received contracts and this stability has also been a factor for this tremendous campaign. These cricketers will receive an attractive remuneration of Rs. 50 lakhs for this performance from BCCI. The foundation stone has been laid, the cricketers have stepped up and now the fans have added the due recognition these women deserve. This generation of women cricketers are nothing short of champions for spreading the spirit of their game to the nation and now the people will inspire and cheer this team throughout their journey to the next world cup in 2021 in New Zealand and beyond.