I’ve been playing professional cricket for 10 years. I developed an interest in the sport when I was a child. I would visit my aunt in Hyderabad. My cousin played cricket with his friends in the neighbourhood. I joined him there. Initially, all the boys found it odd but eventually, I was accepted and I started playing with them, whenever I was at my aunt’s house.
My parents have always been supportive. I was 17 when I started playing professional cricket. My dad realised that the sport had become my passion. To a great extent, even my father was responsible for my interest in the game.
He would often watch the India-Pakistan, India-Sri Lanka and other cricket matches on TV. I would sit beside him and watch. By the time I became a teenager, I knew most cricketers by their names, batting and bowling styles.
At some point, my enthusiasm for the game overtook my father’s. When I told my parents that I wanted to become a cricketer, my father understood where that came from. My mother also encouraged me and today, I’m sure they don’t regret their decision.
As for comparison with the boys’ team, I think there should be no comparisons because both are functioning at different levels. The men in blue, and I wouldn’t name any one of them, have been an inspiration, icons and benchmarks for us.
We keep them in mind when we play because we have to make our country proud of us, the way Dhoni’s (M S Dhoni) boys have, or at some point, Ganguly’s (Sourav Ganguly) boys, and Azharuddin’s (Mohammed Azharuddin) did.
The Board Of Cricket Control In India (BCCI) has never treated the girls’ team as a stepchild. They have given us as much mileage as they have to the boys’ team. But I can say on behalf of my entire team that we think the boys’ teams are more evolved in comparison because men have been playing cricket for 40-50 years.
The girls’ teams are relatively new. We’re still learning the ropes of international cricket whereas they are the masters of the game. I would say we co-exist in harmony. That’s how it should be.
No figures but women’s cricket pays well. I’m not sure if the paychecks are as heavy as that of the boys, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the passion for the game that both the teams share at the same level.
The Indian Premier League is about to begin in a few days. While I extend my support to all the men in different coloured jerseys, I can just say that IPL is a dream for the women’s team. And since we are working hard, I’m sure the dream is quite achievable.
-As told to Rachana Dubey
No figures but women’s cricket pays well. I’m not sure if the paychecks are as heavy as that of the boys, but that doesn’t matter.
Name: Jhulan Goswami
Debuted in: 14 January 2002 versus England women (Test) and 6 January 2002 versus England women (One-day)
Matches played: 114 (including tests, one-day matches and T-20)
Batting style: Right-hand
Bowling style: Right-arm medium
Wickets taken: 144 (including tests, one-day matches and T-20)
Runs scored: 726 (including tests, one-day matches and T-20)
Other interests: Watching sports channels and listening to music, whenever there’s time.
Men think sports is their monopoly: Prashanti Singh
Prashanti Singh, captain of the women’s national basketball team, rues that women are always sidelined when it comes to sports.
Prashanti Singh was born on May 5, 1984, in Varanasi. She plays Point Guard for Indian women’s national basketball team. She represented the Indian women’s basketball team at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. She’s one of the best Point Guards in India, known for her game skills, academic strength and personality. She belongs to Varanasi’s Basketball Family of India where four out of five sisters have played or are playing for the Indian national team.
Prashanti started representing the Indian women’s basketball team in 2003. Recently, she led the Indian women basketball team and won the Silver medal at the Asian Indoor games, Vietnam 2009. This is one of the biggest achievements in Indian basketball history.
If I weren’t a basketball player, I would have been an engineer! I wasn’t a huge fan of basketball when I was a kid. My sisters used to play the game in school. Varanasi is a small place. So, playing games used to be the only form of entertainment.
I was always tomboyish and played with the boys in my colony. One day, a boy hinted that I couldn’t play because I was a girl. At that time, my sister Divya was in the school basketball team. I asked her if I could join them. That’s when I started playing basketball.
Later, in standard eight, I played the mini state championship. I was the youngest in the team and played well. My coach, Amarjeet Singh, started calling me Boskey. The boys were impressed. They asked me to join them. I didn’t.
Last year, I captained the Indian team and won the silver medal at the Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam. It was a proud moment.
Looking back, I wonder what I would have done without my mother’s support. My parents are academically inclined. My dad passed out of IIT, Kharagpur, and my mother did her MA followed by a B.Ed. My dad warned us that playing basketball professionally wasn’t a lucrative career. But mom assured him that nobody would point a finger at us if we studied well.
My sisters and I were fortunate because our mother helped us in our studies. I missed the first position in school by a few points. Divya is a gold medallist and is pursuing her masters in the US with scholarship.
However, I realised that dad was right. In our country, cricket is the be-all and end-all. But no one bothers about women’s cricket. Every sport is associated with men. And men too have been taught to think that sports is their monopoly. But who cares when women can win medals for the country?
I’m happy to see celebrities supporting the Hockey World Cup. But why just Bollywood… Other iconic people from various fields should also come forward to promote our sport. People like Deepak Thakur or Rahul Gandhi can make an impact. The sad part is, our government takes care of all those in the team… but what about those who are not?
—As told to Jayeeta Mazumder
Oinam Bembem Devi, captain of the Indian women’s football team, on the sport which she has played since 13
Name: Oinam Bembem Devi
Age: 30 years
Debut: National Football Championships in 1993
International goals: 50
Recognitions: AIFF Women Footballer of the Year for five years.
I belong to the Meitei community, which is famous for being sports crazy. But it’s more of indigenous sports — Yubi Lakhbi (catching coconut), Muknakangjei (Manipuri wrestling) and Sagolkangjei (local version of polo).
All these sports, though, didn’t interest me. I would skip school to play football. That’s is the reason I took up the game. Dad was doubtful about my abilities right from the beginning. He wanted me to excel in studies. My mother was quite supportive and encouraged me.
Football is popular in Manipur. Here, no one plays or watches any other sport. Right from my childhood, I had no interest in any other career choice other than playing football on a professional level. I started playing when I was just 13.
Two years later, I was playing with the boys from my village. Then I joined the local women’s team. I got my first taste of professionalism in 1995 when I represented the Manipur State Women’s Football team.
My father changed his mind after I started playing on an international level in 1995 at the Asian Cup. It was the experience of a lifetime to play against countries like, Hong Kong and Mauritius. So it’s 15 years now since I have played for the country.
In 1998, I got a job in the Manipur Police Department. I represented the Manipur State Police Sports Club and won the Manipur State Women’s Football League for them several times. I have never looked back since then. I feel more should be done to encourage women’s football in India.
There’s very little money in the sport. More money needs to be pumped into women’s football. Men’s football has gained a strong foothold. Playing a sport dominated by men has been the biggest encouragement for me. One day, I plan to start a training academy. I want to coach young girls who want to become India’s future football stars. I want women’s football to grow in the country the way the men’s game has. I want the Indian Women’s National Football team to play in the World Cup Finals.
—As told to Collin Rodrigues