The triumph of Women in Blue is a paradigm shift in Indian cricket
The 3 match ODI series between India women and England women which is a part of ICC Women's Championship just concluded. Yesterday Indian men lost the T20I series 0-2 to Aussies in Bangalore, but Indian women completed a 2-1 win over English women at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai keeping the tricolor flying high. But to me, it's not the result that is striking, it is how our Women in Blue have caught the imagination of the nation while doing this.
For the first time in India, in a women's cricket match, I have seen spectators present in a large number in the stadium and cheering the players. There were long claps when cover fielders gathered the ball. There were encouragements, shaabasis, and tons of adulation on display. There were long reverberating chants of “Indiaaa-Indiaaa” every time a wicket fell, especially towards the end of England's innings in the 3rd match.
A notable element of this win was also the absence of Harmanpreet Kaur. The T20I captain of India who had a lean series in New Zealand was out of the team due to injury. And the team won despite the loss of one of its prolific batters.
Two players got a chance to replace her. While Harleen Deol couldn't make much of the opportunity she got in the first fixture, a returning Punam Raut made the most of the chance she got by scoring 88 runs in two innings she got to play. With Punam's successful return the batting line up also seems settled, when Harmanpreet returns at number five, adding much-needed strength to the frail Indian middle order.
But probably the most important aspect of this win was that this win didn't come at the back of slow and turning pitches India is known to offer. Rather all the matches were played on seaming pitches that had enough to interest all kinds of bowlers.
England's best bowler was KH Brunt with 5 scalps in three matches giving 90 runs. That's a series figure of 26-4-90-5. The second best English bowler Anya Shrubsole had 4 scalps in 3 matches spending 107 runs. That's a far cry from Indian pacers Shikha Pandey's 8 for 73 in three matches, and Jhulan Goswami's 8 for 90 in three matches. If we look at overall bowling figures, Indian bowlers sent 133.2 overs taking 27 English wickets for 481 runs. Which is, again, far better than 140.5 overs England were made to bowl spending 555 runs taking only 18 wickets.
It's obvious that not only English bowlers were overall outdone by their counterparts but also Indian pacers exploited the conditions better on seaming pitches than the English ones. It will hurt England to know this more.
Though the Player of the Series went to Smriti Mandana for her three consistent innings including back-to-back fifties in the last two (she topped the batting charts on either side with 153 runs in three innings), Shikha Pandey absolutely deserved the honours for her best bowling across the series.
This loss has been more than just a loss of points for England, it's been a loss of pride as well. England came on the tour with a "have never won in India" tag. They prepared hard for the tour, recalling the venerable Sarah Taylor, and as the current World Cup winners, they would have been hoping to dominate India. But the fact that they couldn't defeat India despite having been given green tops would hurt them even more.
These are good signs for Women's cricket. I only see Women's cricket going up from here. Even more so because the players are really upping the ante and the team is shaping up rather well after the new coach WV Raman took over.