The World Cup is an event young cricketers – men or women – dream to be a part of. It is the culmination of years of preparation and practice by cricketers and support staff to ensure they perform well as they are likely being watched by millions across the world. The Women’s Cricket World Cup in 2017 was a showcase event of the calendar that year. The International Cricket Council (ICC) had played their part in promoting women’s cricket and ensuring media coverage across the world. Eight teams participated in the event in which the top two teams – India and England – competed for the trophy in one of the most popular grounds in the world – Lords, London. In a thrilling finish, Anya Shrubsole demolished India’s middle and lower order to end their challenge and win the coveted trophy.
The Indian team returned home with heads held high. It was the start of a period where they exceeded all expectations and made themselves known in the cricket world. Earlier, India only knew of the Men In Blue, but after the tournament, players like Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Jhulan Goswami gained media coverage and turned into role models for women, regularly appearing in television commercials, interviews and as guests in popular TV shows. After all, it was years of hard work that was finally bearing fruit.
Before the World Cup, India had won the Quadrangular tournament in South Africa thrashing the hosts in the final. However, few would have expected them to perform the way they did in the World Cup. The victory over England in the opening game was actually considered an unexpected win brought down to luck. But they proved otherwise by winning against New Zealand and then Australia. The match against Australia in the Semi Final was memorable. I wish I was there in England to witness it. Harmanpreet Kaur hammered the Australian bowlers reminiscent of Virendar Sehwag’s onslaught years ago and knocked them our comprehensively.
The momentum that was gained in the World Cup continued in 2018. They toured South Africa in early 2018 in won the ODI series 2-1, winning the first two matches comprehensively. This time round, Smriti Mandhana caught everyone’s eye when she compiled a century in the second match at more than a run-a-ball and India made in excess of 300 and then even bowled South Africa out for a paltry 124. Although they lost the next series at home against Australia, they beat England again in the ODI series that followed. They then went to Sri Lanka and won the ODI series there. Their next assignment was another tough one: against New Zealand in New Zealand. Smriti Mandhana ensured that they won that series too. To put it simply, since the world cup ended, they have not only beaten Sri Lanka and South Africa but also cricket heavyweights such as England and New Zealand.
India’s performance in T20 has not been as strong as the ODIs. Since the ODI World Cup 2017, they have again won against South Africa and Sri Lanka but considerably fell short against Australia, England and New Zealand. Although they finished in the top 4 in the T20 World Cup in 2018, they also lost the Asia Cup for the first time. However, there have been individual performances that cannot be ignored. Smriti Mandhana was the top run-getter in the Kia Super League in 2018 and won the player of the tournament. Both Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana made important contributions for their team in the Women’s Big Bash League recently concluded in Australia.
The Indian Women’s Cricket Team have slowly but surely improved over the last few years and have exceeded expectations by consistently winning matches and series, especially in the 50-over tournaments. Individual performers like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur have a lot of years in front of them and will play an integral part in the team’s success in the time to come. The team has surely come of age and are emerging as strong challengers for Australia, England and New Zealand. In fact, considering the current record of New Zealand, one would be tempted to rank this team just behind Australia and England, which is by itself a great achievement. It has certainly won a lot of hearts – both among men and women – and inspired many young girls to consider cricket as a sporting career.
Cheers to the Women In Blue and wish you the very best for the future!