'Women's cricket team can script their '96 Leander Paes moment at CWG 2022'
Leading cricket commentator Gautam Bhimani explains why the Indian women's cricket team can script a game-changing moment at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The Indian women's cricket team can script their 1996 Leander Paes moment if they win a medal at the Commonwealth Games, said noted sports commentator Gautam Bhimani. India went into the Gold medal match with their win on Saturday.
In a live video session on The Bridge's Youtube channel during India's semifinal against England, Bhimani explained why the likes of Smriti Mandhana - who scored a blitzkrieg 32-ball 61 as India put up 164/5 - would be playing with a different sort of motivation in the CWG.
"The moment you're competing for a medal, everything changes. The women's IPL is going to be a reality soon, but that's just one way - franchise cricket. If you can combine that with playing for the tricolour, then it gives a huge push," he said.
"Look at what happened with Leander Paes in 1996 in Atlanta. He's generally seen as a doubles player, he has won a lot of doubles titles, but his singles wins were key. Like in the Davis Cup, where also he was playing for the nation. There's a different feeling when you can hear the national anthem and playing for the tricolour. At the start, it is very important for a growing sport to have that exposure."
When 22-year-old Leander Paes won the bronze medal in Tennis at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, India's first individual Olympic medal in 44 years, there was a huge push behind Indian sports other than cricket. In subsequent years, the number of individual Olympic medals won by Indians increased exponentially.
On the cricket team's CWG campaign, Bhimani said that the rise of seam bowler Renuka Thakur has provided the much-needed fresh blood that the bowling department needed.
"India had Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami for so many years. A new generation has been coming through in the batting department, with the likes of Jemimah Rodrigues, Shafali Verma coming through. But among bowlers, a few names are needed who can come up and take the baton," Bhimani said.