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Breaking gender barriers

world Updated: Dec 27, 2008 23:59 IST
Anirban Roy

The status of women in impoverished Nepal has always been underprivileged. Be it at home or outside, the Nepalese society never treated women at par with men. But, they are now showing the world that cricket is no more a “gentlemen’s game” in Nepal.

On Tuesday, Nepal’s Under-19 women’s cricket team lifted the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Under-19 Women’s Championship trophy, smashing Malaysia at Chiang Mai in Thailand. Perturbed with the disparity, women in the insurgency-ravaged Himalayan nation have proved that nothing is impossible for them because they work hard.

“We have shown the world that we can also play cricket,” Nary Thapa, captain of the jubilant cricket team said, adding that they could register five victories in a row and establish that their triumph in the final was not a stroke of luck. “We really worked hard,” she said.

While the Nepali media described the victory of Nepal’s Under-19 women’s cricket team as a show again of Bollywood’s blockbuster film “Chak de...”, the players knew that their success was the result of their hard work.

In fact, Nepal’s U-19 women cricket team started playing international cricket three years ago, but were unable to avail good training facilities. Last year, the team lost to Bangladesh.

Unlike the women’s team, the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) has been giving special emphasis on training and progress of the national cricket team. Former Sri Lankan vice-captain Roy Dias has also been training the national team for the last couple of years.

“We could win the tournament because all the players worked hard,” Thapa said. During the last two years, the team had gained a lot of confidence, and is now capable to win more matches, she said. During the ACC tournament this year, the Nepali team remained unbeaten throughout, and defeated Bhutan, Bangladesh, Singapore and China. “We hope that our victory will improve the social status of women in Nepal now,” Thapa said.

Even today, social and women’s rights organisations are fighting for the rights of women in Nepal’s society. Even after transformation of the Himalayan Hindu kingdom as a federal democratic republic, the society is still feudal and does not bestow equal status to women.

“We hope that the members of the national team of Nepal will now learn lessons of inspiration from the young women’s team,” Naresh Sharma, a cricket lover from Kathmandu said, adding that with little more work now, Nepal can earn the distinction of a test-playing nation.

Sharma said the national cricket team has already earned a lot of experience and exposure and should work hard now to improve its performance. “People would like to see victorious results like the women’s team,” he said.

Unlike other major cricketing nation, cricket is not a popular game amongst the youths in the rural areas in Nepal. Rather, boys in the villages still prefer to play football. During the last few years, popularity of cricket is gaining in the urban areas.

While India and Nepal enjoy a strong political and diplomatic friendship, there is a growing feeling that the Nepali cricketers should now regularly play practice matches with some of the Indian teams to finetune their performance.