Playing at home, in front of your own people, your family and friends, can be a big boost, and as such, the women’s World Cup in India should be a great moment for the Mithali Raj-led team.
The last time the World Cup was held here was in 1997, when the women’s game was not yet under the auspices of the Board of Control for Cricket in India and was run by the Women’s Cricket Association of India. I played that tournament, and I remember it was a great experience for all of us.
But there isn’t a big buzz around the tournament, and neither is there much optimism surrounding the Indian team’s chances. Of course, any team playing at home should be considered the favourite, but I would still rate Australia and England, and even New Zealand, as far ahead of India at the present moment.
The reasons are many. First of all, we have had a dismal run at home in recent times, losing to Australia, England and West Indies. The batting doesn’t look complete, and there seems to be an over- dependence on Mithali, who is the No. 1 batter in the world according to the ICC rankings.
Secondly, one- day cricket is a youngster’s game, but a lot of the Indian players are 30- plus.
In my heart of hearts, I would absolutely love to see them win, but there seems no realistic chance, because the Indian team has stagnated while the world has progressed.
I remember an ODI where New Zealand scored 280- plus and Australia chased it down — a far cry from India’s usual range of 210- 220 runs. Even the West Indies have come up very quickly in the last few years and I’m really impressed, especially with their T20 performances.
India’s fortunes will depend very largely on the young Punjab batter Harmanpreet Kaur, who’s a class act and can score quickly.
Since we came under the BCCI, the quality of women’s cricket in the country has gone down. It has done a bit, but not as much as was needed, with the result that this is probably the last batch of quality players India will see unless there’s a drastic change in policy.
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At one time, Air India and Railways possessed such quality that they could’ve beaten Australia or New Zealand; now our girls hardly get to play two tournaments a year — and five days of cricket out of 365 can’t produce good players.
That has led to a complacency factor creeping into the players’ psyche. The selection committee also hasn’t helped with the mixed signals it keeps sending out.
Financially, yes, the players are better off. But the only way they can force the BCCI to take notice of them in on- field matters is to do well in this World Cup.
The writer is a former India women’s captain