For the most inane reasons, women’s cricket has never received its due in international circles. Gender disparity in the real world was chucked out ages ago, yet this form of cricket still receives step motherly treatment.
The earliest recorded game of this aspect of cricket has been traced back to 1745, between the villages of Bramley and Hambledon in Surrey, England. Since then, interest in the game among the members of the gentler sex grew in leaps and bounds, leading to the formation of the International Women’s Cricket Council (IWCC) in 1958 and it eventually merged with the ICC in 2005.
Sian Davies and Sally Slowe broke the gender barrier in April 1970 while attending the Easter coaching classes conducted by the MCC. Nine years later, Lord’s hosted the first women’s Test match between England and Australia.
In another first, the first ever Cricket World Cup was organized in 1973, two years before the men’s version. The ladies also played the first ever Twenty20 international game, and hold several other records that were set much before their male counterparts could reach those milestones.
Here is a look at some of the top women cricketers of all-time:
Betty Wilson (Australia)
Considered to be one of the game’s first ever female all-rounders, Elizabeth Rebecca Wilson went on to represent her nation in Test cricket during ten years from 1947-48 to 1957-58, playing eleven Tests in that period.
Betty was a superb exponent of the willow, becoming the first ever player (male or female) to score a hundred and take ten wickets in a single Test match in her final season of international cricket. An outstanding off-break bowler as well, she also took the first ever hat-trick in a women’s Test.
Her performances led to her induction in the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame in 1985 at the age of 64, the first female cricketer to be allotted that honour. A legend in every sense of the word!
Diana Edulji (India)
Drawn to sports from an early age, the Mumbai-born former captain of the Indian women’s cricket team started off playing tennis ball cricket along with her elder sister Behroze, who also went on to play for the national side.
Diana excelled at both basketball and tennis, but focused her attention towards cricket after attending a camp conducted by former Test legend Lala Amarnath. She then went on to play for Railways before entering the national squad, becoming a successful slow left-arm orthodox spinner.
Her final tally of 120 wickets have made her the then-highest wicket-taker in the women’s format, and she also had the honour of captaining the side three years after forcing her way into it. The Grand Old Lady of Indian women’s cricket held several positions upon ending a 16-year career, and has been very vocal about what she perceives to be second-class treatment from the BCCI.
Nevertheless, Edulji still remains the greatest Indian women’s cricketer of all time.
Belinda Clark (Australia)
A former female cricketer who also captained Australia during a fourteen-year career from 1991 to 2005, Belinda Clark carved a place for herself in cricketing history by becoming the first person to score a double century in a One-Day International, thirteen years before Sachin Tendulkar emulated the feat against South Africa in the men’s format.
When Wisden Australia named her as a Cricketer of the Year in 1998, they described her as Australia’s best-ever batswoman till date. Her free-flowing style, combined with a sound classical technique and aggressive shot making bailed her side out of trouble many times. She made a formidable pair with the left-handed Karen Rolton, evoking comparisons with many legendary male batting partners at the time.
Clark led her team to World Cup wins in 1997 and 2005, and they also made the final in 2001. With Rolton, the NSW native replicated the domination exerted by the Australian men’s team in the late nineties, until her retirement.
Since then, she has gone on manage the Australian Cricket Academy in Brisbane, and served as chief executive of Women’s Cricket Australia.
Mithali Raj (India)
If there was one person who could take the baton from the legendary Diana Edulji as the mainstay of the Indian women’s cricket team, it was the unassuming lady from Rajasthan who has been a rock in the batting line-up.
Mithali shot to international prominence by scoring 214 against England in only her third Test, breaking Karen Rolton’s record in 2002. A right-hander who bats in the middle-order, she has been a pillar of strength for her side, soldiering on without being fazed by the opposition. There have been hints of a gentle comparison with Rahul Dravid.
The Railways cricketer has evolved into one of the coolest and most mature heads in Indian cricket, leading the side to the final of the World Cup in 2005, a Test series victory against England and the Asia Cup. Her leg-breaks also provide variety to the attack, and she has also been a recipient of the Arjuna award in 2003. Definitely an all-time great for sure.
Charlotte Edwards has been to England what Belinda Clark was to the Australians for many years – a responsible leader and a useful batswoman. She has been quite successful in both roles, much like the Aussie veteran.
Edwards has earned many plaudits since her debut for the national women’s team, scoring a then-record 173 against Ireland in an ODI before her 18th birthday. She also overcame a serious ligament injury that caused her to miss the 2001 season, helping her side to retain the Ashes and achieving twin World Cup triumphs in 2009 (ODI and T20). With over 140 appearances in ODI cricket, Charlotte is the most-capped player in the side, and is on her way to becoming a legendary cricketing personality in her own right.