Since the turn of the decade, the Indian sporting landscape has witnessed a growing assertiveness of women in sports. We have often confused the names Saina and Sania, but for once, such confusion does not really matter, for they are both number one in their respective sports. In this article, we take a look at a few more sports where the female athletes currently enjoy the edge over their male counterparts. This question is not from a battle-of-the-sexes perspective, but more from the view of whether, relative to the current men’s team, the women’s team is performing better.
Let’s take into instance the Indian women’s cricket reaching the finals of the 2017 world cup or the women’s football team dominating the SAFF championship across all editions. It is safe to say Indian women have come a long way and enjoyed a steep curve of success in sports. Indian women have excelled not just in team sports, but in individual sports as well. In Rio 2016, both medals that India won were courtesy female athletes. PV Sindhu scripted history becoming the first Indian woman to win an Olympic silver medal while Sakshi Malik entered the record books as the first women grappler ever to medal at the quadrennial event.
Let’s find out, in what other sports the Indian female athletes currently enjoy the edge over their male counterparts.
Football (Men WR:103, Women WR:57)
In a nation where the populace is dominated by cricket and football has to creep its way up to make headlines, the Indian women’s football team is steadily making a name for themselves in the world circuit. What’s more, they have never gone below 100th rank and are currently ranked at 57 in the latest FIFA rankings. The Blue colts, however, are placed outside of the top 100 at 103, admittedly though the number of teams competing is more. What is even more surprising is that the team is ranked above the likes of Northern Ireland, Greece, Croatia, Ivory Coast, and Uruguay.
Their history serves as a testament to the sheer potential the team posses. The Women’s team was one of the best teams in Asia in the mid-70s to early 80s when they finished runners-up at 1979 and 1983 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Presently, the Indian team has won all the SAFF Women’s Championship since its inception in 2019.
Volleyball (Men WR:131, Women WR:117)
In another interesting revelation, the Indian women’s volleyball team leads the charge when compared to the men’s squad. The eves are ranked 14 places above at 117 in the FIVB rankings while the men’s team occupies the 131st position. Volleyball in India has had chequered past and it’s history dates way back to Independence. Its onset in the subcontinent comes around the same time and this makes the sport another hand-me-down from the colonisers.
Despite rich ancestry, Indian volleyball has failed to reach the epitome of success, being marred by constant controversies which even saw the national body’s exclusion from the FIVB in 2016. However, Indian volleyball, of late, has enjoyed a rejuvenated start, with the Indian men’s team winning the silver at the U-23 Asian Volleyball Championship, earlier in the year.
Basketball (Men WR:67, Women WR:45)
Basketball is another sport where the Indian eves dominate. The Women’s team beat the Men’s across not just the World rankings but also in Asia standings. While the girls rank 45th in the world, the men are 67th, whereas in the Asia rankings the women are once again placed ahead at seventh while the men sit at twelfth. The sport came to the country all the way back in 1930 but apart from a run of moderately successful outings in international competitions during the seventies, basketball has largely languished in obscurity.
However, with the advent of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 2017, the sport has found a silver lining. In fact, the NBA first made its entry into India by setting up a basketball school in Mumbai in April 2017. That was then followed by the establishment of the first every NBA Academy in Greater Noida. Basketball in women is gradually gaining steady momentum and they have started to stake their claim in success. Earlier this year, Vaishnavi Yadav will become the first Indian basketball player to play in the junior college league of America.
Chess (Men WR:4, Women WR:3)
Over the last few years, Indian chess has experienced a boom in terms of talent and has seen more women plying their trade in the sport. Not just an increase in the foray, but Indian women have dominated their male counterparts convincingly. In the last three editions of the World Team Chess Championship, the Indian eves each time have finished ahead of the men’s team except in 2017 when both teams finished in the fourth place.
Not only at the World Championships, but the Indian women’s team are also ahead in the FIDE world ranking compared to the men’s team. If minting and cultivating GMs was one brilliant output of the rise of Indian chess in the world, the coming of a super-strong and empowered female contingent is the other.
Cricket (Men ODI:2, Women ODI:2)
While men’s cricket in India has been long in existence, women’s cricket arrived in the subcontinent much later. But plaudits to all those women who fought tooth and nail to match the pace and put Indian women’s cricket on the world map.
To put things into perspective, the Women’s Cricket Association of India was formed in 1973 while the BCCI was established in 1928. The Men in Blue won their first World Cup in 1983, while the Indian women’s team played their first Test match in 1976. India women’s recorded its first-ever Test win in November 1978 against West Indies under Shantha Rangaswamy’s captaincy at the Moin-ul-Haq Stadium in Patna.
But their recent success, which includes finishing runners up at the 2017 World Cup has catapulted the team into the limelight, paving the way for more girls to take up the sport. Interestingly, both the men’s and women’s teams are currently tied as the second-best ODI team in the world.