It is a contrasting tale of India’s campaigns in the cricket World Cup. In 2005, India reached the final before badly losing the much against a superior Australia. Literally, it went unnoticed. Twelve years down the lane, as India went down fighting to hosts England in last-over thriller by nine runs, the women cricketers won the hearts of the Indian fans in front of a first time full-house crowd for women’s final at Lord’s. They won the battle but not the war. It was heartbreak for the Mithali Raj-led team at Lord’s. They could not do a Kapil Dev, who had toppled the mighty West Indies in 1983. That special win changed the Indian men cricket. One-day cricket became popular overnight in the country. For the first time, there was live telecast of the matches. In the nascent stages of television, the fans watched in groups in front of the limited sets available in the country. Kapil Dev and his men became overnight heroes. The BCCI, too, woke up the reality and promoted ODI cricket in a big way. History was again repeated in 2007 Twenty20 World Cup. The shortest format of cricket was never to the liking of BCCI but MS Dhoni and men took another big step by emerging champions in the inaugural T20 World Championship. Rest is history. This feat by the Mithali and her team at Lord’s could be the game changer for women’s cricket. That they became household names thanks to the live telecast and Mithali readily acknowledges that it has lifted the game to a new high. They have evoked spontaneous response, highlighting the character, class and indomitable spirit. Mithali Raj’s reputation as a captain has been awesome. For this Hyderabad-based cricketer, captaincy means setting an example and leading from the front and winning the matches. The world highest run-getter, with over 6,000 runs, has the class and charisma. It was also the Jhulan Goswamis, Harmanpreet Kaurs, Smriti Mandanas, Punam Raut or Deepti Sharmas who raised the bar in this World stage. Kaur’s unbeaten 171 from 115 balls ousted Australia, the favourites and champions. This Punjab cricketer was very much a known quantity. She is a clean ball-striker. In fact, Kaur and Smriti are the only two women cricketers who play in the women’s Big Bash T20 in Australia.
Mithali has rightly said the World Cup performance has brought the women’s cricket close to an IPL tournament. The IPL will improve the standard of the women’s cricket in the country. More importantly, the women’s cricket has got global acceptance and it has now got a base. It is up to the BCCI to organize the league, may be a two-week tournament at the start. This way it can give exposure to good cricketing environment and interaction with foreign players. As Mithali said the Indians will benefit. For sure Indian women’s cricket has come of age.