By Anjum Chopra
During the ongoing India vs England men’s Test series, broadcaster — Sony Sports India — is showing a nice and notable advertisement of India Women’s upcoming tour of Australia.
Mind you, it’s not just a mere mention, faces of prominent women players are being highlighted in the promo. I found it very impressive.
This reflects the changing mindset in Indian sporting landscape. Women’s cricket is now being seen as marketable commodity. This is a clear departure from the past, when women’s cricket was seen only as an add-on and not a standalone property.
I feel this is an important step in lifting the profile of the sport and no better time to give such a push than ahead of India’s tour Down Under, where they face Australia in their first day-night pink ball Test match and white ball series (ODI & T20).
The compulsory quarantine in Australia might just be a blessing in disguise, especially for the five Indian players who have joined the team after their outing in The Hundred tournament. It might give the team that extra time to regroup, which becomes necessary when the team has not been together for a while.
This is a new lifestyle — quarantining and shifting from one bio-bubble to another. Living out of a suitcase, shifting formats and changing uniforms.
The Indian players went to UK along with the men’s team prior to the World Test Championship (WTC) final for a multi-format series against England women. Some of them stayed on while others returned for a short break and then went into a training camp.
The Indian team for Australia tour was announced recently with a couple of new faces: Meghna Singh and Renuka Thakur.
But my thought is with those players who were on the England touring party and never got a chance to showcase their skills — Priya Punia, Simran Bahadur and Indrani Roy. These players had got selected for their performance in the previous domestic season and the home series against South Africa. With the next domestic cycle slated to begin later in the year, the fate of these players hangs in the balance.
Do these young players and go back and start their pursuit all over again or do they remain in the scheme of things for the near future?
We have often heard about building a bench-strength and creating a pool of players. There is a new selection committee in place. To be fair, they have been in the thick of things right from the first day in office. They have tried to make bold decisions only to back-track on them by the next meeting.
A futuristic thinking is workable but it requires a strong present. Just like selectors might require time to build on their thought process and decisions, a young player is also most likely to be in the same boat. Chopping and changing seems viable only when the given opportunity has not been availed, otherwise it may look a hasty and unplanned decision. Most of us have been in similar situations and the learnings from them should allow us to make an informed choice.
In the next 12 months, there is an ICC women’s cricket world cup in New Zealand and Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Both are different formats of white-ball cricket but each equally important for women’s cricket to continue its movement upward and onward.
Last year, only one domestic tournament could be conducted for women in India. With a women’s challenger during the IPL this year looking unlikely, the opportunities are limited for Indian team aspirants to remain relevant.
Am happy that this year there is regular cricket played by Indian women. After a lull last year, this year promises hope and regularity leading up to an important 2022.