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The Ladies' Raj


Mithali_Raj_Jhulan_Goswami_India_Women's_CricketI never followed women’s cricket. Not at all. Male chauvinist? Yes and No. Indian society may have changed over time, but it tends to make a man that, more often than not. Then, I went to Norway. 10 years in Norway later, I moved to Sweden. 

Norway and Sweden are both welfare states where the concept of ‘likestilling’ (equality of position), is deeply ingrained in society. These are countries in which women do not expect to be offered seats on buses (whenever they are crowded and there are no vacant seats, that is), and even if a chivalrous dude offers them one, they politely refuse. Old women are averse to seeking help from young men and would like to carry their heavy shopping bags themselves. In short, they do not consider themselves to be inferior in any way to their menfolk and they are also not allowed to feel that way. 

If there is a job vacancy and a woman is more meritorious than the men who have applied for the post – no matter what type of job it is - she is selected. In fact, when organizations/units in companies/departments in universities become male-dominated (the ratio of male to female employees being unduly high), advertisements state clearly ‘ Female applicants will be given preference.’ Slowly but surely, while remembering my mother who skillfully managed both the home and her job as a school teacher without letting one come in the way of the other ever, my respect for the fairer sex multiplied manifold. 

This, of course, does not mean that I did not respect women while I was in India.


And then, thanks to my French-Indian friend Pascal who asked me why I did not follow women’s cricket as closely as I followed the ‘male-variant’, I started doing so. I must say however that I do recall some names from the past – Shanta Rangaswamy and Diana Eduljee, both former captains, one from the south and the other from the west. 


I read Smriti Mandhana’s story with great interest…brother who wanted to make a mark in international cricket living his dreams through his sister’s accomplishments! Fraternal bonding which touches the heart at once. Mandhana’s rise to open the innings for the Indian national team was a demonstration of sheer determination and application of her abilities and talents. Of course, we see that after having made a promising start in the Women’s Cricket World Cup she has struggled to get into double figures in the matches that followed the first two. But that will pass. 

In India, even for a man from humble origins, rising to the top is very difficult, let alone for a woman. Perhaps Aamir Khan’s Dangal was a shot in the arm for the Indian women on the cricket field. Further, it was a girl who got us a silver medal (which could very well also have been a gold) in the Olympics recently. 


Pascal commented rightly, ‘ Everyone is sad that India lost to Pakistan in the finals of the men’s Champions Trophy. Cannot they be happy about the fact that the Indian women are doing well?’ Good question, Pascal…but you know…


Now let us consider the milestones achieved by the Indian women on the cricket field. And also on the versatility of some of them. All-rounders in a different sense. Young Veda Krishnamurthy has a double black belt in karate. Mithali Raj is an accomplished Bharatnatyam dancer (Tamil girls are always encouraged by their parents to learn classical dance and Carnatic Music!). 


Poonam Raut and Deepti Sharma hold the record for the highest opening partnership ever in ODIs (both men and women taken together) – 320 runs! Mithali is the only female cricketer to surpass the 6000-run mark in ODI cricket, while former captain Jhulan Goswami is the highest wicket-taker in women’s ODI cricket (and also among the fastest bowlers). 


They take on the Aussies in the semis. Always daunting, men or women. Add to that the fact that they are by far the most successful in women’s cricket. But so were the West Indians when India faced them in the 1983 World Cup final. The 25th of June 1983 scripted a new chapter in Indian cricket, as we all know. Former skipper Anjum Chopra puts the odds at 50:50 – realistic and that is good enough. The women have the potential to make it big and compensate for the debacle which Kohli’s men had to face at the hands of Sarfaraz’s men not very long ago. 

Unfortunately, for many Indians, it is not really a case of ‘All or Nothing’ but rather ‘Male or Nothing’. That ought to change. People like Mithali Raj are carrying forth the baton passed on by the likes of PT Usha, Shiny Abraham, Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal and so many others, I wish to name, but would not clutter the article.  

Sport is to be looked upon as something which promotes unity, the concept of ‘likestilling’ referred to earlier in the article, and fellow-feeling. It is, if anything, enlightening, motivating, inspiring and nourishing (the body, mind and soul). It brings out the best and the ‘most humane’ in all of us…or rather has to! Well, I am not sure how much the Sri Lankans and Pakistanis appreciate their womenfolk playing cricket, but I would guess that they have started doing so. 

We have spent a lot of time heaping praise on the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly, Dhoni and Kohli over the years, while women have been silently reaching milestones on the cricket field. HoldingWilley has featured some articles on women’s cricket, but perhaps there could be a few more? From both male and female cricket-writers?

Good luck, sisters. May the force be with you!


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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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