By Anjum Chopra
Hope is a very powerful word. It provides the fuel required to run a process. Hope turns into desired reality with constant effort and consistent monitoring. The word hope (for improvement) has remained absolutely perennial to my game, cricket.
Consistently over the years, there have been discussions about a few areas in the team that require improvement. Rotation of strike and running between the wickets — converting singles into doubles to keep the scoreboard moving — have remained the top draw discussions. The Indian women’s team has not yet mastered this art.
So what deters the present lot from getting better in this area?
Intent, fitness, skill are a few things that come to mind. Having said that, if it wasn’t for the presence of all these qualities, the players wouldn’t have donned national colours. They wouldn’t have become international players.
At present, there is immense focus on Shafali Verma. Her batting style and stroke-making ability have caught everyone’s attention.
Shafali’s ability to hit the ball and the impact her batting makes is the essential ingredient required to bring about ‘change’ in Indian women’s cricket.
Veteran Mithali Raj, on the other hand, has stuck to her methodology since beginning. She has been very comfortable with it and it has earned her immense success. However, other Indian players are still seeking perfect balance within these two contrasting styles.
A reason for that might be that our players are still not completely comfortable playing out of their comfort zones. Adaptability remains essential in international arena. The game will evolve constantly without altering the basics. The players who come into the squad are required to hit the ground running.
Even though there has always been very little game time available for ideal preparation, best results are always expected. With the matches getting broadcast regularly, shortcomings in a team get noticed quickly.
The onus will be on players too. There has to be constant improvement in skill, fitness and intent levels. A good way to prepare is by playing friendly matches. Putting oneself in match situations allows a player to become match fit.
The power and timing required to clear the field can best be measured there. Using the feet regularly to spinners or playing strong powerful shots on the leg-side does provide confidence required to strengthen the intent of scoring.
Indian women’s team doesn’t boast of tall, strong-shouldered players so the dependence on timing will always be key. A player does not need to wait for competitive matches to improve skills. Let them remain a testing ground to showcasing skills.
It can be argued, but cricket is a batters’ game. It is absolutely imperative to put runs on the board to strengthen the bowling. Yes, bowlers win you matches, but if that becomes a regular feature then it is a concern. A cart cannot be put ahead of the horse.
It is absolutely critical for the player to remain in touch with the game at all times. With better coverage of the sport and rising expectations, delivering results will be crucial. It is desired by one and all that more women should take to the sport and more people should follow the game. For that to happen in any country, positive results have to take the lead.
(Anjum Chopra is a former woman Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal)