The Indian women’s cricket team is going through a phase they’d like to erase forever. Right after their best-ever performance at the World T20 with a scintillating string of wins, the team has witnessed probably one of their biggest lows so far. Senior player and ODI captain Mithali Raj has been in an ugly war of words with coach Ramesh Powar after her exclusion from the semi-final, that India went on to lose. Harmanpreet Kaur, captain of the T20 team, has had nothing to say about her teammate, except that she had “no regrets”.
But amidst all this, one mustn’t forget the long and inspiring journey that women’s cricket in the country underwent before coming to the spotlight at the 2017 ODI World Cup – a journey that I have attempted to chronicle in my second book, Free Hit: The Story of Women’s Cricket in India’.
Here’s a look at 10 interesting facts about women’s cricket in India.
- When 17-year-old Smriti Mandhana became the first Indian woman to score an ODI double ton in domestic cricket, she played with a bat that belonged to none other than Rahul Dravid! Dravid had gifted the bat to Smriti’s brother, Shravan, during his junior playing days.
- Harmanpreet Kaur’s father didn’t speak to her for months after she cut her hair as her long hair was getting tedious to wash every day after cricket practice. He accepted it gradually.
- Jhulan Goswami’s first love has always been football. The diehard Diego Maradona fan was inconsolable when Argentina lost the 1990 FIFA World Cup final to West Germany. Jhulan used to scribble Maradona’s name all over her school books.
- Southpaw Smriti Mandhana is actually a natural right hander. She turned left-handed on the insistence of her father who was obsessed with left-handed batsmen. Smriti’s favourite player in the world, hence, is a left hander – Kumar Sangakkara.
- During the 2009 ICC World Cup in Australia, Harmanpreet Kaur hit such a huge six in the game against the hosts, that her bat had to be sent to a laboratory for checking. Kaur had to undergo a dope test too, as the authorities were suspicious of the amount of power with which she hit that six.
- Diana Edulji, current CoA member and former India captain, broke four front teeth while playing colony cricket as a teenager. But the experience didn’t deter her from becoming a cricketer!
- Mithali Raj’s image of reading The Essential Rumi may have gone viral during last year’s World Cup, but books and Mithali go back a long way. It all started with a Sidney Sheldon offered to her by a senior teammate during a long train journey, when Mithali was still a teenager.
- Opener Punam Raut almost got picked for Mumbai’s U-14 Boys’ team when she was 12 years old. Raut’s coach had sent her for the trials to test her skills among boys.
- In 2005, after Jhulan had taken a five-wicket haul against the visiting English women in an ODI in Silchar, she got a call in her hotel room for an interview from the BBC. Jhulan’s interview went on for more than 30 mins, till she heard giggles outside her hotel room door. She found her teammates there, laughing away at the success of their prank that was masterminded by their captain Mithali Raj, who posed as the BBC journalist on the phone!
- Women’s cricket in India was founded by a man! Lucknow’s Mahendra Kumar Sharma formed the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) in 1973. WCAI ran the women’s game in India till 2006 when it merged with the BCCI after an ICC ruling.
(Suprita Das has worked as a sports journalist in India for more than a decade. After a ten-year stint with NDTV, she now works independently. Suprita has now written her second book 'Free Hit: The Story of Women’s Cricket in India'.)