In a first, the Bangladesh women’s cricket team beat six-time and defending champions India by three wickets to clinch their maiden Asia Cup trophy in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
In a low-scoring final of 113, needing two off the last delivery of the match, Jahanara Alam hit the Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur towards deep mid-wicket and ran for a double to chase down the target.
The Bengal Tigers who made history
It was Bangladesh’s second victory over India in this year’s Asia Cup tournament, while this was India’s very first final defeat in the history of the competition.
The Indian Eves had an impressive journey throughout the tournament winning four of five matches they played before Sunday’s final. In their opening match, India bundled Malaysia out for just 27 to register a resounding 142-run victory. Electing to bat, India scored 169 for 3 in 20 overs, riding on Mithali Raj’s unbeaten 97 off 69 balls blitz, and then shot the home side out in just 13.4 overs.
Medium pacer Pooja Vastrakar packed three wickets conceding just six runs while the spin duo of Anuja Patil and Poonam Yadav, who did not concede any run, took two wickets apiece as the Indian bowlers ran riot over the clueless Malaysians. Only five Malaysian batswomen could open their accounts as six fell for duck and none could manage to make a score in double-figures. Though Mona Meshram’s 45-ball 32 was the top-score from Indian side, Harmanpreet’s 17-ball unbeaten 27 steered India to its winning total. She again shone with the ball scalping three wickets with her off-spin, yielding a mere 11 runs in three overs.
India locked horns with Bangladesh in their third outing of the tournament, which came as a setback for the team as they were defeated for the first time. The women in blue couldn’t hold its target of 141/7, as Bangladesh recovered from 49/3 and reached 142/3 to complete the chase with two balls remaining.
The Eves picked up their third win in the tournament defeating Sri Lanka by 7 wickets in their fourth match. A comprehensive bowling performance from the side restricted the opponents for just 107. Chasing down the total of 108, India lost Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana. But Anuja Patil and Veda Krishnamurthy kept their nerves and took their side to an easy seven-wicket victory.
The penultimate match for India in the tournament was drawn against arch rivals Pakistan, which was a virtual semi-final. India showed their prowess to script a seven-wicket win. Ekta Bisht, who was declared the man of the match, rattled Pakistani batting order as she picked up took three wickets for 14 runs in her spell of four overs. Needing 73 runs in 20 overs to win the match, Harmanpreet Kaur scored an unbeaten 34 to help her side in setting up an easy win.
No Country for women’s cricket?
Though India’s impressive run in the tournament culminated into a final disappointment, the women displayed some tremendous nerve sailing through the tournament. The likes of skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, Mithali Raj, Ekta Bisht showcased their heroics I attempt to retain the trophy for the seventh consecutive time.
Putting aside the final defeat, however, the disappointment piled up for the Indian supporters as again we suffered the blow from the Indian broadcasters. None of the matches were shown LIVE on Indian television apart from the Sunday’s final. Despite knowing that India had the odds stacked in their favour in the tournament the fans had to settle for score updates on websites to reciprocate to their own team’s victory.
For time and again, women sports have faced negligence from broadcasters. It was indeed a grand stage for the Indian women’s cricket team, which is slowly trying to gain popularity among the mass. However, some of the major sports channels in India were busy airing the highlights of the Indian Premier League during the same period. This has been not only the case of cricket, when it comes to women in sports, TV in general tunes out citing viewership issues.
We have seen the players themselves have spoken multiple times about the importance of broadcasting the matches live and how it would help women’s cricket. In May 2017, when India had beaten South Africa by eight wickets to lift the Quadrangular Series, the then captain of the Indian women’s team, Mithali Raj had pointed out that their games should be marketed. She also urged the board to arrange for the broadcast to at least retain the handful of fans the Indian women’s team has earned. It’s been over a year since then and the state apathy remains the same. Despite, playing the finals of the Women’s Cricket World Cup, the Indian Women’s team has failed to convey their sounding victories to the fans following the event.
It is true that the Indian women’s team plays fewer matches compared to what the men’s team plays, but when even the telecast of these measly number of matches cannot be arranged, how can a team expect to gain followers?
We talk about Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s World Cup winning knock in 2011 or Sachin Tendulkar’s marvelous 134 at Sharjah in 1998; we consider ourselves lucky to witness the innings LIVE on our television screens. However, the apathy to women’s sports, has rarely given us such opportunity to discuss the knocks of a Mithalin Raj or a fiery spells of Jhulan Goswami.
Receiving felicitations after emerging victorious does not serve half the purpose of uplifting a game or athletes, it is by evoking the sense of togetherness through the journey of winning we can actually develop the sport.