By Avinash Kr Atish
New Delhi, Dec 9 (IANS) The 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup held in England changed things drastically for women’s cricket in India, says veteran batter Punam Raut, who played a crucial knock of 85 runs in the final match of that tournament.
Chasing the target of 229 runs in the final, India were going strong but collapsed from 191/3 to be bowled out for 219, losing the match by just nine runs. Though India lost that dramatic final, things changed for the women’s cricket in the country after that.
“We did very well in the 2017 World Cup in England and from there on, things changed drastically for women’s cricket in India. Our matches started getting broadcasted and had good media coverage and even parents became more accepting about girls playing cricket,” Raut told IANS in an exclusive interview.
“Earlier, parents used to complain but now they motivate girls to play cricket and even many ask me about the different levels of women’s cricket and the whole process of getting selected. As a whole, society has changed, more women’s matches are being played and new exciting talents are coming through,” she added.
After playing international cricket for around a decade, Punam believes that women’s sport in India has changed a lot compared to the time she started.
“A lot of things have improved for good. When I started playing, there was no regular broadcast of our matches, and people used to know only one or two female cricketers but now fans follow most of the Indian women’s cricket matches and are aware of others as well,” she said.
“Now we have a decent domestic structure and a fair amount of international matches are played in a season. Though the number of matches we play is less compared to men, it is better than what it was. Young players are getting exposure on ‘A’ team’s tours and by playing in foreign leagues as well,” she added.
There has been a growing chorus for organising a full-fledged women IPL and the experienced campaigner also feels that a five or six-team league is the need of the hour.
“Yes, I am very optimistic about the Women’s IPL. The league will help the Indian women’s cricket team in getting fearless and readymade players as we now see with the men’s team. Youngsters will get the chance to rub shoulders with legends of the game from different countries and it will help them in honing their skills,” the batter said.
“It will also serve as a platform for players, who have been dropped from the Indian team, to prove themselves and make a comeback,” she added.
The 32-year old also dismissed the ‘lack of talent’ arguments, saying that there is no dearth of talent in the Indian women’s cricket set-up.
“I have played a lot of domestic cricket and can say that we have loads of talented players. A lot of these matches haven’t been, and are not televised so it is believed that there is a lack of talent. There are many active and even former cricketers who go through the grinds of domestic cricket and regularly do well for their respective teams,” said Raut.
“However, people know only 15 players who feature the Indian squad and their performance in the domestic circuit goes unnoticed. A women’s IPL will also help them get their due recognition. So, I firmly believe that we have enough talent in the country to start a five or six-team IPL,” she added.