India’s Harmanpreet Kaur skipped down the ground to Bangladesh’s Rumana Ahmed and hit the ball to the mid-wicket boundary. Ahmed pushed the next ball wider and was rewarded as Kaur tried to swing it away again and holed out to deep mid-wicket. Facing the next ball, Ved Krishnamurthy went down the ground and missed the ball by a mile. Bangladesh’s wicket-keeper Nigar Sultana whipped off the bails in a flash but there was some controversy: The third umpire ruled that the keeper had snatched the ball in front of the stumps and hence the dismissal did not count.
There is another World Twenty20 championship in town. The hype around it may be considerably less and the coverage lacklustre as compared to the men’s event, but the women’s World Twenty20, which started on Tuesday with India beating Bangladesh, could still prove to be a watershed moment for the women’s game in the country.
Since the 2009 edition, the men’s and women’s events have been held concurrently. However, this is the first time that it’s happening in India.
Notwithstanding India’s devotion for cricket, the country’s cricketing custodians have had a spotty record when it comes to the women’s game. However, holding the two events concurrently is a good move. Previous editions have shown that women’s games received impressive viewership, bringing in a new set of fans. If the same trend continues in India, women’s cricket in the country will have finally come of age.
There are other encouraging signs too. A recent advertising campaign by the Board of Control for Cricket in India featured the women cricketers with their male counterparts, with both receiving equal importance. The Indian women’s recent Twenty20 series win against Australia in Australia was broadcast live, a first in many respects. Thirteen out of the 22 matches in the women’s World Twenty20 will also be broadcast to television audiences. While that may not sound much, it is a huge step up from the previous editions where only the semi-finals and the finals enjoyed broadcasting privileges.
New air of dynamism
Having won the last three editions of the tournament, the Australian women’s team should have been firm favourites. But India sprung quite a surprise by defeating the Southern Stars in the three-match Twenty20 series in January. Mithali Raj’s women then went on to thrash Sri Lanka 3-0 in February. There is a new air of dynamism about the Indian women’s team with a clutch of new talents like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur sharing space with veterans like Jhulan Goswami and captain Mithali Raj.
Two stars to watch out for are Australian captain Meg Lanning and England’s wicket-keeper Sarah Taylor, ranked first and second respectively in the Twenty20 batting rankings. Lanning holds the record for the highest individual score in a women’s Twenty20 international, smashing 126 off 65 balls against Ireland in 2014. Taylor has been one of the game’s most exciting players since she debuted in 2006, and her attacking stroke play will be one of England’s strengths.
No international cricket tournament can be complete without a smattering of Caribbean calypso. West Indies captain Stafanie Taylor has a reputation for hitting big – she smashed 90 off just 49 balls on her debut at the age of 17 in 2008. An all-rounder par excellence, Taylor was deemed the International Cricket Council Women’s Cricketer of the Year in 2011, the first West Indies player to receive that award. Giving her company is Deandra Dottin, another hard-hitting West Indian all-rounder who scored the first century in a women’s Twenty20 international in 2009.
Closer home, Pakistan’s hopes will rest on their captain Sana Mir. The 30-year old has been one of Pakistan’s star performers over the last few years. Currently ranked ninth in the bowler’s rankings, Mir has been in red-hot form of late and will be looking to enhance her reputation on the global stage.
Despite Australia’s supremacy in the format, this World Twenty20 looks deliciously open. And if Mithali Raj’s women go on to win the title, it would be a huge shot in the arm for the women’s game in the country.