<b>Close-in<b>: Why should men have all the fun
One can see a major change in India women’s team at the ongoing ODI World Cup. It looks a smart and confident team one feels proud watching
Indian women’s cricket is transcending upwards quite rapidly. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) finally recognised its presence a few years back. Thereafter, with the backing of the BCCI, women’s cricket in India has grown by leaps and bounds.
One hopes that with consistent performances, women’s cricket will flourish in the same way as tennis, badminton, wrestling and other sports have done in recent times. With extensive mass and social media coverage, women’s cricket should create sporting icons and role models for people to emulate. Cricket is the most popular sport in our country and therefore spreading it via every avenue possible could generate an interest that could be unthinkable.
The BCCI has finally given the Indian women’s cricket team the same privileges and allowances as accorded to its male counterpart. Earlier, members of the women’s touring side were paid a measly allowance, which barely justified their status and reputation. Players turning out for India should be made to feel proud and comfortable as they are not only playing for their country, but are brand ambassadors for the millions watching.

The BCCI should be commended for initiating financial benefits to the past and present women cricketers. One can see a major change in the side representing India at the ongoing ODI World Cup in England. It looks a smart and confident team one feels proud watching.
Women’s cricket has always taken a backseat, as most parents do not see it as a profession for their daughters to pursue. But India is changing rapidly and one can see it reflecting in the attitude of the young ladies. I have had the pleasure of interacting with a few of the young women cricketers and was pleasantly surprised that in pursuing their dream to play their favourite sport cricket, they were willing to stay away from the comfort of their homes and rough it out in cities that were foreign to them. The expansion of cricketing facilities and academies around the country should definitely benefit women’s cricket tremendously in the future. Today many of them have to travel to metro cities to practice and hone their skills. Star India all-rounder Harmanpreet Kaur travelled from Jalandhar to Mumbai, so did many others who had to undertake similar journeys to pursue their dreams.
The seven consecutive ODI half centuries hit by skipper Mithali Raj, a world record, is a feat rarely accomplished even in men’s cricket. Her consistency and rare feat of playing five World Cups puts her in the same bracket as legend Sachin Tendulkar. Unfortunately, in the last match versus West Indies on Thursday, she got out for 46 or else she would have struck eight half centuries in a row!
The most interesting aspect of watching India’s first World Cup match against the strong English side was to see Mithali calmly reading a book while waiting for her turn to bat. This truly showed how cool, collected and confident she was about her game. She went out to bat and compiled an excellent 71 runs to place India with a safe total, besides establishing a personal record in the bargain. Equally remarkable is Jhulan Goswami, the highest wicket taker in the world in ODIs.
Although Punam Raut, the opener with an immaculate defense, continues to be in good form, the player who has taken the world by storm at the WC is Smriti Mandhana -- Punam’s left-handed young opening partner from Sangli, Maharahtra. She already has a 90 and a century under her belt from India’s two outings and could well become the star of the tournament. Smriti showed class and style with some unbelievable big hitting capability. She reminded one of the graceful Salim Durrani -- minimum movement, maximum results. She is a superstar in the making and her stroke-play is filled with elegance and grace.
India has convincingly defeated both hosts England and the West Indies and seems to be on course for a place in the semifinals. The match everyone is now to watch is India’s next encounter with Pakistan on Sunday. A win victory against the archrivals, especially after the men’s side’s defeat in the Champions Trophy final, would take women’s cricket to greater heights.
During the qualification phase, the women’s side did not play the three stipulated matches against Pakistan because of government sanctions and was heavily penalised by the ICC for it. They got zero points and still managed to reach the final. They showed exemplary character by ultimately winning the qualifying tournament in the last over against South Africa. The star of that win was the hard-hitting Harmanpreet who hit a six on the penultimate ball to seal victory, a la Dhoni style.
However, Indian women need plenty of refining in the area of fielding and must improve their running between the wickets. This needs plenty of practice and practical knowledge. One should see an enormous improvement in the future once the proposed infrastructure of the BCCI comes into effect.
(The author is a former India cricketer)
Columnist: 
Yajurvindra Singh
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