Women's Cricket

Women’s Asia Cup: Bangladesh arrive on the big stage in style as India’s experiments backfire

Harmanpreet Kaur’s side’s brittle lower middle-order was once again left exposed as the skipper waged a lone battle.

Thirty-four wins and a rain-affected match that went in their favour, spanning 14 years and six tournaments: India’s dominance at the Women’s Asia Cup was almost unparalleled. The women in blue flannels had made winning a mockery, almost functional and bordering on merely turning up to the ground as they swept the first five tournaments.

That was before Bangladesh decided to end their hegemony on Wednesday. The odds, of course, was stacked against them. Salma Khatun’s side were chasing a daunting 142 to win – a target they strolled towards in the final over of the match. It was Bangladesh’s first win over India in any format. This win overshadowed an equally impressive but important win against another continental giant, Pakistan.

Lightening surely can’t strike twice, can it? Bangladesh did the unthinkable on Sunday. The well-drilled bowling unit restricted the Indian batters, carefully trundled towards the target before scurrying past the finish line in the last delivery of the game.

Hordes of Bangladeshi supporters that had turned up in Kuala Lumpur made a 1970s-style dash onto the field after the victory. Elsewhere, men’s team opener Tamim Iqbal’s social media account was buzzing with his teammates celebrating the thrilling last-ball finish in wild fashion. Bangladeshi women had arrived on the big stage and they did it with a trophy – something that their male counterparts – a Test side, are yet to achieve.

This win was nothing short of monumental. A rag-tag fearless young group butted heads with the top brass, and emerged victorious. This was not England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or India – the unofficial top five. After the World Cup qualifiers early last year, Bangladesh barely played any international cricket of note, something that may have impeded their growth. To pull an upset win twice against an all-conquering team? You must be joking.

“We are No 9 on the ICC rankings, so unlike our men’s side, our playing opportunities are limited and that has stunted our growth to a great extent,” Rumana Ahmed, one of the mainstays of the side, told ESPNCricinfo after being selected to train in the Women’s Big Bash League.

Even Dhaka, the capital city, has very few academies that train women. Their win even had an Indian touch with former player Anju Jain masterminding it from the sidelines. Jain, to her credit, had taken over as coach only weeks ago. Her first task? Instilling self-belief and telling her wards that they belong at the big stage.

“We had a chat with the girls prior to the India game, specifically cautioning them against being fazed by the big names in the opposition,” Jain had told The Field after their shock win in the group stages.

In the final, Jain’s team showed more application, hunger, and nerves than their seasoned opponents. It was only sweeter that the game had a nail-biting finish. A new order is certainly in place, after they were given little hope, especially after crashing to a heavy defeat against Sri Lanka in their group stage opener.

India’s weak lower core exposed

Bangladesh certainly got their hard-earned win but the two incoherent performances by India in this tournament will certainly come under the scanner. Unlike the women in green, the Indians have been playing regular cricket over the last few months, facing opponents as formidable as South Africa, England and Australia.

Worryingly, veteran Jhulan Goswami hardly posed a threat to the Bangladeshi batters. Nigar Sultana had the most telling say in the chase when she smashed three boundaries off Women’s One-Day International cricket’s highest wicket-taker.

Some of the experiments at the top of the batting order were puzzling to say the least, especially with the World T20 around the corner. A promising youngster such as Jemimah Rodrigues was largely used as a substitute fielder despite being hailed as a future star. The Mumbai girl has put up impressive displays against some of the top dogs.

The often-discussed lower-order woes also popped up in the final. The spinners – with Poonam Yadav being the standout – once again performed with distinction, but it was Bangladesh’s collective effort that emerged as a bigger talking point.

Nahida Akter for instance, despite her tender age and being asked to face stalwarts such as Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana, gave almost nothing away. India on the other hand, threw the game away in the space of 10 balls.

Just after the Powerplay, Mithali, Deepti Sharma and Anuja Patil exited. Bangladesh had exposed India’s brittle lower core. Harmanpreet and Co still have a lot to ponder ahead of the big event in the Caribbean. Maintaining stability would be a start.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.