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Women's Cricket

I don't like women's cricket

As a 'strange' cricket fever takes over with the Indian women's cricket team touring Australia - we try to make sense if the women's game is likable, at all.

A devastated Indian womens cricket team after their loss to Australia in the 2020 Womens T20 World Cup

A devastated Indian women's cricket team after their loss to Australia in the 2020 Women's T20 World Cup (Source: AFP)


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 21 Sep 2021 1:24 PM GMT

I don't like women's cricket. Yes, I said it. You may read it again, but I will need you to stick with me as I explain that there isn't much to like here - and I know this is a plural thought, not a singular one.

Long, long time ago, before I could fully navigate my way through the Pogo's and Cartoon Network's to reach the perpetually-LIVE sports action area on our bulky cable television, the breakfast table conversation would always be aflutter with tales of cricket - so much so that I had learnt to tune it out...initially.

While I wanted to flip over to the entertainment section of the paper, my grandmother, her hair cropped short in complete abandonment of adhering to 'feminine' appearances, would look up from behind the newspaper and tell me, "Wait. Not yet, I'm reading the analysis of yesterday's match. Come back later for the paper."

That was my cue to retreat, as well.

My grandmother, now 70, is perhaps the most ardent cricket fan I've observed from up-close. Once a part of the first Bengal's women's cricket team in the 1970s, grandmother becomes a static-breathing object glued to the TV whenever a cricket match is on - be it the men's or the women's game. I wasn't ready to get sucked into the cricket vortex yet though...don't get me wrong - I had ALL my walls up - 'This is a territory you cannot breach. You cannot make me like cricket.' - that was my go-to defense. But…it happened, her infectious passion got to me.

Sourav Ganguly celebrates after winning the NatWest trophy in 2002 (Source: Getty)

So, that was it. Childhood meant having cricket become the Cerelac on which babies are fed - like it or not. Cricket's importance was kept paramount - it was the unsaid religion of the house, not that deviants were penalised, but eyebrows certainly were raised.

In that atmosphere, with hot-off-the-press news of swashbuckling Indian men cricketers like Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman's machismo being dissected and discussed to erstwhile Indian women's cricket captain Jhulan Goswami's bowling techniques praised….it became difficult to ignore. Cricket seeped in, despite every protest from my tennis and badminton-adoring self, cricket found its way in and made a place for itself.

The gentle swerve towards Women's Cricket

The Indian Women's Cricket team (Source: AFP)

Growing up, with a more informed mind now, I realized my leanings sway - women's cricket, away from all the exorbitant fanfare, quiet yet triumphant, began fetching more of my attention. I was quite late to the party for this - I'll admit this. It wasn't before the 2017 Women's World Cup in England that I became fully converted - the job was done. All it took was a flamboyant display of heroism by the Indian women led by Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Punam Raut, Harmanpreet Kaur who stopped short of just 9 runs in their chase of England's 228 from lifting the coveted World Cup title on the hallowed grounds of the Lords. My money was pinned on them now - a strange sense of pride swelling in me.

But, history was made and being witness to this 'little big' achievement by the women players felt more special - as if I was part of an exclusive club, privy to certain exclusive information and subsequently exclusive euphoria that was my own. Watching women's cricket became a different experience altogether and it did not match the emotions I felt, along with the herd masses, when I saw MS Dhoni or now, Virat Kohli's boys in their conquests near and far.
Smriti Mandhana (Source: AFP)

It will be difficult to exactly put my finger on the pulse that beats differently for women's cricket but it is louder, more rapid, for sure. Even as I became a full-fledged fan, much to my grandmother's delight, I wasn't so sure about the world fanning over women playing the game - the lack of parity was stark between the men's and the women's game. For one, the coverage was not the same and that created the biggest of problems - but even broadcasters didn't seem interested - 'Women? Cricket? Tch, please!'

Way too many naysayers of women cricket dot around, a multitude of allegations are levied against it. 'What's the fun in watching women's cricket - there are no exciting chases', goes one allegation while the talent of women cricketers are brought into scrutiny - ``How good are they really?", so on, so forth, echoing my titular sentiment in multiple permutation-combination of phrases.

Let me take you on a tiny myth-busting ride then. Big scores and nail-biting run chases are very much a part of the women's game. Australia's Belinda Clark, who led the side to World Cup victories in 1997 and 2005 was the first player to score a double century in the ODI's in Mumbai during the '97 WC outing, while the Ugandan women's cricket team notched a mind-boggling 314/2 run against Mali during the Kwibuka Women's T20 tournament.

As far as talent is concerned, it might sound the most shocking but the women's game boasts of more all-rounders than men's cricket which pride themselves in building teams by curating 'specialized' players. Records are also child's play to the women thanks to the Shafali Verma's and Alyssa Healy's of the game who have been smashing record after the other. With their big-hitting power shots and an extremely high strike rate, there is never a quiet moment when Verma or Healy is at the crease - their combination with the willow is explosive, history tires itself bowing down to their feats.

Over the years, the popularity of women's cricket has slowly but steadily grown - both in India as well as globally till the 2020 T20 World Cup final between India and Australia saw 86,174 people flocking to the hallowed grounds of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), marking the massive victory of the sport, more than anything else.

However, the taboos do exist, the stereotypes may have shifted slightly but haven't become extinct, women's cricket keeps coming at the secondary position next to the men's game, when their rightful place should be next to them. It is an uphill battle, but the fight is very much on to smoothen out the ladder, rob it of its unfair rungs.

It is 2021 now. Closer home, the Indian women's cricket team has stepped out of the shadows - the so-called veil has been lifted and out they have arrived, armed with the willow and the deuce ball, ready to spin, ready to swing for glory.

As India takes on Australia in the Indian Women Tour of Australia in Down Under, the nerves are recharged again - ready to watch Shafali Verma, Smriti Mandhana create history. Count on the same adrenaline rushes, take pity on your nails as they will have a hard time, say the prayers to your God's, and do what you will do before you prepare for any other match and you will find that there is little not to like and a lot to love in the women's game - all you need to do is watch it.

So, if you haven't dipped your fingers into this side of the sport yet, now would be the perfect time to do so. Give women's cricket a chance and who knows like me, you won't just like it, but end up loving it instead.

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