Women finally get the cricket limelight they deserve
For years, women’s cricket was treated with a certain amount of condescension, a sport in which there was minimal if any interest. No endorsements, no publicity, it was not even considered elegant enough to watch for long periods.editorials Updated: Jul 21, 2017 17:21 IST
A cricket final is guaranteed to generate more than a frisson of excitement among aficionados in India – our men in blue are always the cynosure of all eyes. But what is heartening this time is that it is our women who have stormed their way to the World Cup final at Lord’s, who are the subject of feverish interest as they take on England tomorrow. And with this, women’s cricket in India has crossed a boundary that has not been breached before – public interest that almost matches that when the men take to the field. With this, attitudes are bound to change.
For years, women’s cricket was treated with a certain amount of condescension, a sport in which there was minimal if any interest. No endorsements, no publicity, it was not even considered elegant enough to watch for long periods. No longer. As captain Mithali Raj tersely said when asked who her favourite men’s cricketer was, “Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer? Do you ask them who their favourite female cricketer is?” Well, they will now irrespective of the outcome of the match at Lord’s.
The remarkable fact is that women’s cricket has blazed such a trail in India despite overwhelming odds in terms of lack of institutional support, corporate sponsorships and public interest. So far, it was seen as a very poor cousin to men’s cricket much as many other sports are. So much so, that captain Virat Kohli while congratulating Mithali on becoming first women cricketer to reach 6,000 runs in one-day games did not even identify her correctly. The meteoric rise of the women’s team not only shows that it has smashed gender barriers but also demonstrates an extraordinary perseverance and commitment. It cannot have been easy to keep at the game and improve quite so much in an atmosphere of indifference.
The positive from this is that women’s cricket is now firmly established and opens the doors to younger players who may have hesitated in taking up the sport so far. It is also heartening that cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli have vocally supported the women’s team.
While it will be a long time before women’s cricket enjoys the near cult status that the men’s game does, it will now be taken as a serious sport , one which can be a career option for many young women. With the trend of talent coming from the hinterland, this throws up opportunities for young women across the country, especially from small towns and villages. We are not there yet, but the very fact that Mithali’s 11 will open their innings at the mecca of cricket tomorrow suggests that a level playing field is not far off.