The last time Indian Women’s team reached a World Cup final, there was no Twitter, Facebook was not the social media monster it is now and Instagram was not even on anyone’s mind.
This was when Twenty20 cricket was just in its early years. Anjum Chopra rallied the ladies at Centurion, South Africa for a final against the mighty Aussies. But that time, the Indians fans and other supporters all around the world did not take much notice because Women’s cricket was still miles behind the men’s game.
But this time around in 2017, the case was different. The final was watched by over a million people on TV and Lord’s was a full house.
This time around, only two players from the team that played the 2005 final were still active. Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, both of whom are legends of the Women’s game with Raj being the highest run-getter in the sport and Goswami having scalped more wickets than any woman in the game.
India started the campaign on a high note by defeating the hosts in the opening game of the tournament. Then India ran through West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka before hitting a bump against South Africa. They lost comfortably by finishing 115 runs behind the proteas score.
This loss hit their morale a bit as they suffered a defeat again against the mighty Aussies. That put the Indian team in bit of a bother with a do or die match against the Kiwis being the last group match for the team, but this time around the Indian Women did not leave any stone unturned as they convincingly beat the Kiwis by a massive 186 runs to make rendezvous against the Aussies again in the semi-finals.
The semi-finals by no means was an easy game for the team but a stunning ton from Harmanpreet Kaur showed the world and the BCCI why the women’s game is ready for all the accolades that they have deserved for so long.
This innings also paved the way for a possible IPL tournament for the Women. Harmanpreet scored 171 at a strike rate of 148.69 with 20 fours and 7 balls crossing the fence comfortably. Mind you, the bowlers were no muck with the Aussie team boasting some of the best bowlers in the tournament with Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Jess Jonassen and Kristen Beams.
But Harmanpreet Kaur didn’t bother to see who was bowling as she smacked ball all around the park at Derby with Indian fans roaring in the crowd with each hit. But having scored 281 in their 50 overs, they knew the game was still not over as the Aussies would not give up till the last wicket has fallen or the last ball is bowled.
And wickets kept tumbling Australia reached 169-9 but their ex-captain Alex Blackwell had some other plans as she smacked the Indian bowling unit all over the place scoring 90 off just 56 balls before finally giving her wicket away to the 19-year-old Deepti Sharma who was a really find for the Indian Contingent in the entire tournament.
Indian women rejoiced at the fall of the last Australian wicket as they entered the World Cup final for a second time. The final was no less than a thriller Hollywood movie with a nail-biting finish. This game was a testament that even the women can bring as much thrill and bite to the game as their male counterparts. The final game of the tournament saw India facing England in what will go down as one of the greatest Women’s One Day International matches of the modern game. India was well in control of the game by restricting the English women to a modest 228 in their 50 overs with Jhulan Goswami scapling 3 wickets.
The Indian innings started on a shaky note with Mandhana getting dismissed early on but then the skipper Mithali Raj and Punam Raut steadied the ship for the Women In Blue. After the wicket of Raj, Punam Raut kept doing her job scoring runs at a steady pace while the star of the semi-finals Harmanpreet Kaur scoring a 50 again in the finals.
With 191 on the board and 7 wickets in hand only needing 38 of 8 overs, the turning point of the game came when Shurbsole dismissed well settled Punam Raur for 86 and the Indian batting didn’t look like getting back into the game from thereon.
The batting order crumpled like a house of cards and Shrubsole ended up taking 6 wickets and being adjudged the Player of the finals for her efforts.
Although, the Indian Women’s contingent didn’t bring home the cup this time around, but this tournament will prove to be a turning point in the way the entire women’s cricketing circuit is looked at in India.
Not only that; this tournament will in general change the face of the women’s role in the Indian sport industry with the 2016 Olympics being the start of something special for Indian Women and this World cup carrying forward that legacy.
The first peek at how this tournament changed the fortunes for the Women cricketers was when the team was greeted by huge crowds and people chanting the players’ names and waiting to take selfie or just a peek at their favourite women cricketer.
The Women’s World Cup 2017 will prove to be a changing point in the Indian Cricketing scenario with a hope that the women team will get the same accolades and credit that they deserve.