To the victors go the spoils, usually. But in St Lucia, after Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team crashed out in spectacular fashion, it was more a case of the survivors lapping up the attention. The Indian women’s team, who have qualified for the semifinals against mighty Australia, have barely merited a mention so far. Suddenly, they’re the cynosure of all media eyes, with the men’s team being flayed back home for letting the nation down.
If the women’s team is not amused by the distinctly stepmotherly treatment being meted out to them, they’re not showing it, for they welcome any attention that comes their way.
The trouble for them is that the task at hand is a tougher one than when the men’s team took on Australia. If that game was all about pace, bounce and intimidation, this one is about narrowing the gap. In women’s cricket, the gap between Australia and India is just as large, if not larger, than in the men’s game.
This, however, did not deflate skipper Jhulan Goswami one bit. “We have beaten Australia in the ICC one-day World Cup in Australia,” said Jhulan. “So we are pretty confident that we can beat them in this format as well.”
The men’s team started their campaign strongly and ended with a whimper, but the women are hoping to reverse this trend. They began with a 10-run loss against New Zealand in St Kitts but have since marched into the semifinals with wins against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The credit for this, goes mainly to three batswomen - Sulakshana Naik (88 runs from three matches), former captain Mithali Raj (129 runs from three matches) and Poonam Raut (54 against Pakistan) and understandably the team had high hopes for them.
“Our girls have been in good form. Sulakshana, Poonam and Mithali have been in good nick. We are hoping they will continue to perform,” said Vidya Yadav, manager of the Indian team. Vidya, who played for Hyderabad till the 1990s, has been involved with the promotion of the women’s game for two decades and is also the sister of Shivlal Yadav, the former Test offie and current BCCI vice president. In the bowling stakes, offie Diana David has been the pick snapping up nine wickets from the three matches, including two four-wicket hauls. Her 4/27 against New Zealand was in vain, but the 4/12 against Sri Lanka engineered India’s win. Left-arm spinner Gouhar Sultana and leg-spinner Priyanka Roy (3/19 against Pakistan) have also chipped in.
With the men’s team out, the women cricketers have a rare chance to hog the limelight, but mighty Australia stand in their way.