Indian Women’s Cricketers: Stars in the Making

23 Nov,2018

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

As I write this, I’m watching the Indian women’s cricket team bow out in the T20 World Cup, losing their semi-final game to England after a lacklustre performance. Thus far, it’s been an excellent World Cup for the team, where they won everything on offer, and fairly emphatically too.

 

You can’t win everything. But the Indian women’s cricket team has been winning a lot more in recent times than ever before. The 2017 ODI World Cup in England is where the surge started. India reached the final and should have won it against the hosts, chasing. a modest total, but lost by nine runs in a tight finish. But the run of performances leading to that final made the media and the audiences sit up and take up notice. In particular, the semi-final performance against Australia, featuring a dream innings by Harmanpreet Kaur, where she scored an unbeaten 171, was the gamechanger in this regard. The rise of women’s cricket in India was covered in this column too at that time, which can be read here.

 

Since then, the team has built on its strengths, and has now three clear stars headlining the unit. Mithali Raj is a veteran with many records to her name, while Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana are exciting, young batters who play a brand of cricket that’s immensely entertaining and new-age.

 

During the ad breaks in today’s game, I saw Kaur endorsing a natural fruit juice brand. Raj has been endorsing brands too, and I’m sure Mandhana is beginning to get her share of credit on that front. This was unthinkable two years ago.

 

Star Sports have done well to promote women’s cricket with all sincerity, well knowing that the ratings will take time to come. It’s too early to expect these games to show up on the top programme charts. But the rise in interest is definitive. When India’s men’s team lost the first T20 to Australia earlier in the week, an English news anchor covered it in the headlines, specifically prefixing “men’s” to avoid confusion. That tells you something about the progress that has been made.

 

The women’s cricket team is on a fine journey, but it’s just the start. They will need to be consistent over the next couple of years to build a bigger fan base. That’s when the stars will come into their own, becoming sporting stars like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu or Sania Mirza.

 

In the Ormax Sports Stars October 2018 report, four Indian sportswomen feature in the Top 25 most popular sportspersons in India (across sports, nations and gender), and these are Nehwal, Sindhu, Mirza and MC Mary Kom. Raj follows at no. 26, at less than 10% popularity share of Nehwal. So clearly, there’s a lot of fan base to still cover.

 

The men’s team has done very well in the ODI and T20 formats in recent years, and now enter most series or tournaments as the favorites to win. That’s the next target for the women’s team. And it may not be too far away.

 

 

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