It is, perhaps, a sign of dark times for sub-continental sports when the women athletes of a country begin to emulate their men counterparts. India is known historically for predominantly lion-hearted sportswomen beating overwhelming odds in order to first perform on a larger stage, and then be noticed. From Mirza to Kumari to Nehwal to Kom, the last decade has been heartwarming for aspiring young girls in the country, and despite Indian Men’s Hockey and Cricket teams providing much grief and soul-searching for populist fans- most women athletes (Olympics and otherwise) have gone from strength to strength, many of whom haven’t even been mentioned in articles and the media.
The Indian eves (The Indian Women’s Cricket team) hasn’t exactly been known as a dominant whirlwind of a force over the years. They have never won a World Cup, but have always been amongst the top 4 after England, Australia and New Zealand- and clearly the most accomplished of the 3 sub-continent teams. With talented and relatively well-known players like Mithali Raj, Goswami, Kaur and Raut- they were never taken lightly, despite struggling for consistency along with the other middling team, West Indies.
Hence, coming into the Women’s World Cup 2013, it was not unfair to expect the Indian women to figure amongst the top 3 teams of a 4-team group- especially with West Indies and an inexperienced Sri Lankan team in the fray. The top 3 teams would go into the Super-sixes, where the real test would start. Unlike the Men’s world cup, minnows do not really figure in the original groups- where only 8 ICC teams battle it out from the beginning. But Sri Lanka and Pakistan are the closest to minnows in Women’s cricket. Sri Lanka had never even beaten England, India and a few other teams before this tournament.
With Kamini starting the tournament for India in fine fashion with a solid win over West Indies, only a disaster could have prevented the eves from qualifying easily for the next round. And then, despite Kaur’s magnificently graceful century against England, the eves somehow conspired to be knocked out of the tournament- and dreadful familiarity (hockey tournaments) struck most fans with India and Pakistan now fighting for 7th and 8th places.
A distant dream for Raj
A shattering loss to Sri Lanka in their final group game (138 runs) ended any chance of NRR working in their favour, with the West Indian team doing just enough by showing up for exactly one game in form where they destroyed Lanka. Hopefully, the eves will not take a page out of Team India’s book by blaming rotten luck with run-rates, lack of financial support or an off-day, much like Dhoni and his men did so during last year’s T20 World Cup. One loss nowadays is more than enough to knock a team out- ask South Africa for two decades. Two losses certainly should mean the end.
What is disheartening is that, in Home conditions, in a massive ICC tournament- not much fight was shown in a week that could have been a big step forward for future Indian Women’s cricket teams. The packed North Stand at Wankhede that witnessed their downfall against Sri Lanka must have been reminded of the disastrous 2007 World Cup where Dravid and his men crashed out in similar circumstances to the same country. The same fans will definitely think twice before turning up for the next bilateral series for the eves in India, with support often running hand-in-hand with success nowadays.