by Tara Hebbar
Breaking the fortress of Gabba, or breaking the Australian’s 27 ODI win streak. These two wins for both teams respectively are both historic and equally important in the scheme of things for the cricketing world. However, ask any Indian layman, they’ll be able to tell you the score of Rishab Pant in that match, but very few will even know about the feat of the Indian Women’s team. Although women’s cricket has come a long way and has taken the long and winding road to where it is today, the fact of the matter is – the achievements of the mens and womens team are similar, however, the attention, prestige and recognition is on two ends of the same spectrum.
With a drawn test match, lost ODI and one day series, one would assume that the Indian Women would go back disappointed. However, their small and historic successes should amount to some celebration for the contingent. The first factor is gender neutral – the Australian pitch, which is always discussed with the wary tone of dread. In the past, Indians have always had trouble when it comes to the Australian pitches due to the extra bounce and other conditions which are paradoxes to the flat Indian pitches. For this reason, many commentators and sports analysts had written the Indian women off before they set foot in the down under. Although based on precedent, many players like left-handed opener Smriti Mandana, veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami and re-discovered talented allrounder Sneh Rana showed that they are class cricket players on any pitch. Therefore, even the draw in the test and one win in the ODI format shows the versatility, hard-work and talent of the team. With top-ranked teams like the Kiwi’s and Proteas being unable to beat the Australians in the ODI format, it was the Indian girls who broke this and proved to the world that they are a force to be reckoned with.
In addition to these pitches, there’s the very unfortunate fact that there is no domestic season for Indian Women in cricket and therefore, during the lockdown period and the time subsequent to it, the cricket played by the players was minimal. They had to get their cricket going from smaller series and foreign tournaments like the Big Bash and Hundred. This is extremely disheartening because of the focus that the BCCI (Board of Cricket Control in India) gives to the men’s end of the game. The men have access to not only the Ranjhi, but so many other domestic leagues (like the Hazare trophy, etc.), never giving the players; both capped and uncapped, a chance to lose touch with the game. In addition to this, there was so much planning, investment and time given to the IPL, with the effort taken to relocate it and get players back. With the women’s game, however, no such effort was made from the beginning. This divided attention to one gendered area of the sport by our nation’s cricketing body is highly disappointing. In spite of this negligence, lack of practice, long quarantine the contingent was able to play their best and prove themselves in all formats of the game. Although the money in the mens game is more, the sport and abilities are the same, therefore, the importance that needs to be given has to be the same too.
This Australian series has shown that Indian Women’s cricket has come a long way, and that we have to have pride in our nation’s team and it’s abilities. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s all positive. It must also be used as an opportunity to reflect on the divide in attention, resources and investment by the BCCI which continues to spend exorbitant sums of money on the men’s game and only sparing a very small fraction of that for the women, although they’re achievements can be matched to the men’s. With the correct funding, more attention and equality, there’s no saying how far our team can go. The girls have the talent, they have the skills, all they need now is the platform, opportunity and encouragement, which currently is lacking. This series should serve as an eye-opener for all sports fans and the BCCI, reminding them that the women’s game is as interesting as the men’s and therefore demands the same investment, which could just propel and catapult the team to win all three series the next Australian tour. On a positive note, however, it should serve as a reminder that with some time and patience, everything builds up and a once neglected and mocked half of the sport is now setting ablaze the group with every match they play.