In 2005, a young Indian women cricket team with no player above the age of 30-year landed in South Africa to participate in the ICC Women’s World Cup. The spirited Indian team under the leadership of young Mithali Raj smashed its way into the final of the tournament, only to suffer a heartbreak. However, reaching there with limited resources was a big deal itself and it appeared that finally, fans will give equal importance to women’s cricket as they give to men’s. Come 2017, and nothing changed. A new look Indian women’s team with only two survivors from the 2005 edition, Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami and a number of unknown faces landed in England to participate in this year’s World Cup, just days after the men’s team suffered an embarrassing loss against arch-rival Pakistan on the same soil in the ICC Champions Trophy.
Two weeks of gripping cricket and with just two days left for the final, we are looking at a completely different picture. When the tournament started, India only had Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami to boast about, who by the way are the leading run-scorer and wicket-taker in women’s ODI cricket but now we have a Smriti Mandhana who sizzled in the first half of the tournament, a Punam Raut who has been industrious throughout, an Ekta Bisht who was clinical against Pakistan, a Veda Krishnamoorthy who destroyed New Zealand in a must-win match and of course, a Harmanpreet Kaur who demolished Australia in the second semifinal yesterday.
— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) July 20, 2017
Harmanpreet’s performance should be an eye opener for BCCI that needs to give up on its orthodox approach on women’s cricket. If India wants to excel in Women’s cricket, it needs players like Harmanpreet who have the ability to smash the ball ten rows back and there cannot be a better way to achieve it than to have a women’s Indian Premier League. It will not just help in improving the quality of the game but will also rope in more brands and money.
What IPL has done for men’s cricket is remarkable. Over the years it has become a brand and now even a score of over 400 is not considered safe. Australia has already started a Big Bash league for women and Harmanpreet was the first Indian player to be signed for it and you just saw a demo of the result last night. The problem with women cricket has been that it never had icons to look up to but with the emergence of Harmanpreet Kaur and Mithali Raj, we may finally have the MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar of women’s cricket.