Women’s cricket in India : A brief history

We all know just how popular cricket is globally. It is thought that 2.5 billion people tuned in for the most recent men’s World Cup and that around 1 billion people in India follow the game. These are some pretty big numbers and show just what an impact the game has around the world.

Although much focus has traditionally been put on the men’s game in India, more is now being given to the thriving women’s cricket scene in the country. We’ve seen similar inroads made in other sports, and it shows just how much attitudes towards women’s sport is changing globally.

Indian Women's Cricket team
Indian Women’s Cricket team. Pic Credits: ICC

The history of women’s cricket in India

Cricket in India has always played a key role in society and allowed the country to express its identity. The women’s game had been played in an ad-hoc fashion throughout the country, but it was the 1970s that really saw it take off properly. This was down to the women’s game becoming more organized under Mahendra Kumar Sharma. This saw the Women’s Cricket Association of India registered in 1973 and the Inter-State National Championship being set up.

Over the following years, the game grew in India as more teams joined the Championship and more tournaments were created for female cricket teams to take part in. A big step forward for the women’s game was international cricket being played for the first time in 1975. India won its first Test match in 1976 by beating the West Indies women’s team at Patna in front of 25,000 spectators.

Modern times bring more change for the women’s game

The women’s cricket game in India continued to grow steadily through the 1970s and 1980s. This was both on a domestic and national level. Coming into the 1990s, Indian cricket was in fine health, and the women’s international team won a one-day series for the first time in 1995 against New Zealand. Moving forward from that, the women’s international cricket team is now in even better shape. They had a fabulous 2017 World Cup and only just lost out to England in the final. This was in addition to making 2005 final, which they lost to Australia.

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As this shows, women’s cricket is really on the rise once more across the country – but who are the legendary players who have made this possible?

Shubhangi Kulkarni

When we are talking about real pioneers of the Indian women’s game, this name stands tall. Shubhangi Kulkarni was a brilliant right-handed batsman who could strike the ball with real power and precision. She was also a decent leg-spinner for the team to call upon. She was there right from the start and made her Test bow in the 1976 game against the West Indies. This was followed by a one-day debut in 1978 against New Zealand. Playing for 15 years at the international level, she clocked up 1,047 runs and 98 wickets. This made her an inspiration for other female cricketers to follow in later years.

Mithali Raj

One of the modern heroes for young Indian girls looking to play cricket is Mithali Raj. Widely seen as one of the best batters that the women’s game has ever seen, Raj just oozes class and composure at the wicket. With over 8,000 international runs to her name, she first appeared for her country in 1999 with a sizzling century and has put in many fine performances since then. A big part of the team who made the 2005 and 2017 World Cup finals, Raj is a major reason why the modern women’s game in India is thriving among young people. 

Shantha Rangaswamy

Another epic name who blazed a trail for Indian women cricketers in its earlier days was Shantha Rangaswamy. She played international cricket from 1976 to 1991 and even captained the side at certain points. Rangaswamy was also the first-ever Indian to score a century in the women’s game, which is some achievement. Scoring 750 runs for her country in 16 Tests, she was a big hitter who could play every shot in the book. As with the other names above, she was also a big inspiration to any females in India who wanted to take up the game.

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Women’s cricket in India continues to thrive

With the work of early legends such as Kulkarni and Rangaswamy combined with the exploits of later greats such as Raj, the women’s game in India is healthier than ever. With a thriving domestic scene and success on the international stage, it seems that there has never been a better time for young girls to pick up a bat or ball.

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