A pink-ball, day-night Test and an Indian team that had no experience in the foreign conditions. But Mithali Raj and her pack of fighters managed to grind out a draw against Australia over the weekend as the four-day Test saw many big high points for the team. Like Smriti Mandhana's century, Shafali Verma's half century, Jhulan Goswami's first innings 2/33 at an economy of 1.50, and Punam Raut's decision to walk even while the umpire nodded not out to Australia's feeble caught-behind appeal.
As the team now move onto their next assignment – a three-match T20I series starting 7 October – former Indian skipper Anjum Chopra took some time out to speak to The Quint about the drawn Test but also, the much debated 'spirit of cricket' and the not debated at all India's female domestic cricketers' 'raised' salaries.
First off, how impressed were you with India's Test outing in Australia, considering this was just the second Test the team was playing, after 2014?
The team managed a draw but the manner in which they played was a very welcoming sign. It was possible for them to get overawed by the situation but they didn't let that happen. At least, watching on TV it didn't look like they did, to me. It was also great to see batters from both team playing their shots so yes, they were right up there.
There was a little bit of criticism the Indian team faced from the Aussie media for their 'lack of aggression' because they scored about 377 runs in 7 sessions in the first innings, which sort of ruled out the possibility of a result. What is your assessment of the matter?
I don’t think Australia went blasting through their innings either. Eventually they were about 130-odd runs still behind India so I don’t think the Aussies should be complaining about India going slow or fast. The fact that there was a lot of rain disruptions was a very major factor in deciding which way the game ended.
One big talked-about moment from the match was when Punam Raut elected to walk, during Indian first innings, even though the umpire gave her not out. The Aussies after the day's play said they would not do such a thing. Specially now, when the 'spirit of cricket' is so hotly debated, what would you have done?
If I have nicked the ball and I know I have nicked it, I have already walked. I’ve done that in domestic cricket also. It’s not about not walking or waiting for the umpire’s decision.
Talking about spirit of cricket, four days before this incident everyone was talking about the ‘spirit of cricket’ against Ashwin and now four days later, when something like this actually happens from an Indian where she’s decided to walk off, they’re saying this is against the spirit of cricket.
So I guess, we need to leave it to the other parts of the world to decide amongst themselves as to what is the ‘spirit of cricket’ because they can decide and they can come and let us know.
We, in India, do know what is spirit of cricket and we’ve actually been showing it.
Mithali Raj's decision to push herself lower down the order during India's innings meant she eventually didn't bat as India declared at 135/3. What did you make of the call since a Test match doesn't really roll by that often?
I don’t think that was a good decision. Whether it was prompted by Mithali herself or by the team management, I don’t know. But from the face of it, why would Mithali not come out to bat? What would be the reason?
Was she unfit? No. Because she’s came out to field in the fourth innings. Is she not capable? Is she not good enough to bat? No, that’s not true because she batted in the first innings and she’s the captain of the Indian team.
So why would you not want to go out and bat? How many times does she get to bat in a Test match? She’s probably towards the end of her career, not the younger players who came out to bat.
I think she should have just come to bat at number three. She is a class player, we know that. She missed out on an opportunity of getting a big one in the first innings so why not go out there and score those runs? That decision was completely bizarre for me.
Recently, the BCCI announced a raise in the per day salaries of Indian domestic cricketers. Now, a senior Indian female cricketer will make Rs 20,000 for each day she plays as opposed to the Rs 12,500 she received earlier. That is a big jump but when you see it in context of the Under-19 male cricketers also earning Rs 20,000 a day, that sort of makes you feel let down by the BCCI. Doesn't it?
It’s nice that they have increased the salaries but yes, I agree it could have been slightly more. Another factor here, why the difference needs to be filled in a little bit more is because they don’t play four-day cricket in domestic cricket. They only play T20s and one-dayers.
So even if a player plays the entire season they will at most play 13-14 or 20 matches. 20 also if they play each game right up to the final and even then 20 would be a hard number to reach.
So then it becomes slightly difficult for a senior cricketer to sustain themselves and with the lack of jobs, nowadays the jobs cricketers got playing for companies are also not available, maybe only Indian Railways employs players.
In the future, I’m sure this can come up as a point of discussion for the Apex Council and how they can provide a little more stability or security to the players who decide to take up cricket.