New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) Women’s cricket in India has made huge strides ever since its breakout moment came as being runners-up in the 2017 ODI World Cup in England. Since then, India won Asia Cup, became runners-up of 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup, were semi-finalists in 2018 and 2023 Women’s T20 World Cups and also bagged maiden U19 Women’s T20 World Cup Trophy earlier in the year.
The question now arises is, what more needs to be done to further the development of women’s cricket in the country? The inaugural edition of Women’s Premier League (WPL) is starting from March 4 and it promises to be another watershed moment in upping the growth of women’s cricket in the country.
In her column for the International Cricket Council (ICC), former India captain and legendary batter Mithali Raj pointed towards two things which nations would need to up their growth in women’s cricket: — multi-dimensional players and more fast bowlers.
“All players understand the importance of having two- and three-dimensional players now. Players with only one side to their game are not as desired in today’s game. Only players with exceptional talent like Meg Lanning, Smriti Mandhana and a few others who are extraordinary batters can thrive or a Darcie Brown or Shabnim Ismail who can clock 120 plus. Everyone else has developed their skillset and added to their overall game.”
“For example, we’ve seen how England’s Sophie Ecclestone has developed her skills with the bat in the death overs, with her cameo against India proving decisive come the end. Grace Harris can contribute with the ball and take wickets for Australia, so I think establishing yourself as an all-rounder, or someone with multiple skills, is the way forward for women’s cricket,” she wrote.
In the Indian team, there are multi-skilled players like captain Harmanpreet Kaur, opener Shafali Verma, Deepti Sharma, Sneh Rana, and Pooja Vastrakar among others. From the batch of U19 Women’s T20 World Cup winning team, there were multi-skilled players like Gongadi Trisha, Sonam Yadav, Mannat Kashyap and Archana Devi.
With Vastrakar being a rare fast-bowling all-rounder in Indian women’s cricket set-up, someone like Titas Sadhu or Hurley Gala can be groomed for that position along with Amanjot Kaur, who gave an excellent impression of her skills during the women’s T20I tri-series.
Then comes the fast-bowling department, which Mithali thinks could be a dominant force in future. In the T20 World Cup, South Africa’s fast bowlers, comprising tearaway Shabnim Ismail, Ayabonga Khaka, Nadine de Klerk and Marizanne Kapp, have taken 22 per cent of all the wickets by pace bowlers (23 out of 104 wickets) in the tournament.
In India, apart from Pooja, Renuka Thakur, Shikha Pandey and Anjali Sarvani were present in the Women’s T20 World Cup squad, with Meghna Singh in the reserves. Overall, India’s pace-bowling attack took 12 wickets in the 2023 T20 World Cup.
“One of the themes of the tournament has been the rise of fast bowlers, who have really dominated and helped their teams to victory, which is not usually the case with the T20 format where you see batters scoring big fifties and hundreds,” added Mithali.
But for a bigger pool of fast bowlers, National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru will have to get their strategies as well as planning right. Also, they need to get the women’s support staff for a fixed period, because a country like India can’t afford to have multiple shuffles of coaching staff.
Less than two months before the T20 World Cup began, head coach Ramesh Powar was moved to NCA and Hrishikesh Kanitkar was made the batting coach, with fast-bowling coach Troy Cooley given bowling coach duties too as India entered the competition without a head coach.
There is at least a gap of three months before India women’s team next international assignment and get on road to preparing for the 2024 Women’s T20 World Cup, to be held in Bangladesh next year, followed by the 2025 Women’s ODI World Cup in India.
If they are to shine and get their hands on the coveted silverware, Indian think tank needs to take cues from what Mithali said to make large strides in the game in coming years.