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The Two pillars of the Indian women's team

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Mithali_Raj_Jhulan_Goswami_India_Women's_CricketTwo years ago, when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) added an Under-23 tournament for women to the domestic calendar, there was some amount of excitement among the players, both former and current.

Sudha Shah, former player and coach of the India team that defeated England in a Test match at Wormsley in 2014, said of the Under-23 tournament, “This will give the girls more of an opportunity to play. It means that the jump from Under-19 to the senior level will not be so drastic – we won’t lose too many players along the way.”

In the recent past, things weren’t always this structured and organized with women’s cricket in India. When the women’s game kick started in the country, in 1973-74, players like Shah, who was barely 15 years old, played only one open state tournament every year and there were certainly no age-group tournaments. Despite this, the very next year, India began to play international cricket.

The time when Under-25 teams of New Zealand and Australia toured India, it helped the Indians to gain a little international exposure before the Indian women played their first official Test match in 1976. Between 1976 and 1986, international matches were played almost every year. Playing matches on regular basis not only meant that the players improved, it also helped them to get in the eyes of the public.

 

In the beginning, people would just come out to see how the women played. Once they saw us win, they began to follow our cricket. Many players became quite well known. Mind you, in those days there was no television – it was just a lot of press coverage,

said Shah.

In a country like India, where cricket is worshiped, where the men’s team has always dominated, if one gets a chance to walk down the road and ask a person to name players from the Indian women's cricket team, they will probably reply with Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami. 

Such has been the aura of Mithali and Jhulan in this male-dominated sport that whenever anybody talks about women’s cricket, these two names are the first that come to mind. Taking women in blue to such a level where they are now being recognized by people across the globe has been largely due to the contributions of these two ladies.

Known as both the Dhoni and Tendulkar of Indian Women’s Cricket, Raj has been the leader of the team and has single-handedly carried the burden of the nation on her shoulders for 18 years. She recently became the highest ODI run scorer in the world, also becoming the first woman to score 6,000 ODI runs. From scoring 7 consecutive fifties to taking the winning streak of the team to 16, one less than Australia, to scoring the most fifties in ODI’s, there are few records that she has left untouched over the course of her career.

Just like every other player, Raj started her professional career with the only mission of playing for the country. From the age of 10, with hours and hours of practice and years of making herself rough through first-class cricket, the stylish right-handed batter was handed her One Day International debut against Ireland in Milton Keynes in 1999, where she scored a century. Her knock of 103* against Pakistan for the 7th spot in 2013 World cup is still alive in the memories of many cricket lovers. 

Jhulan Goswami is the spearhead of India’s bowling attack. She followed a similar career path as Mamatha Maben. When Goswami started to play cricket, Maben was finishing up. “When I started playing leather ball cricket in 1997, we used to have club matches twice a year in Bengal. If you did well in those, you found a place in the 30 probables for the state team,” says Goswami, whose career started when women’s cricket was run by the WCAI but then came under the control of the BCCI. 

 

Obviously in terms of facilities there is a huge difference. Unfortunately, WCAI never had funds, but the BCCI has their own set up in place and their infrastructure is superb. As far as the cricket goes, much is the same. We still play high-quality cricket.

added Jhulan.

When it comes to setting up records, Goswami leads the pack. She holds the record for most wickets in the history of the ODI game and is also the second highest wicket taker in World Cups. In 2006-07, Jhulan Goswami guided the Indian women’s team to their first Test series win in England. She was a member of the Asia squad for the Afro-Asia tournament in India in 2007. 

Later in 2008, she replaced Mithali Raj as India’s captain for Australia tour from there she led India in 25 ODIs. She also won the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year award in 2007. In 2010 and 2012, Jhulan was conferred with Arjuna Award and Padma Shri respectively. 

The record of Indian women’s team is not that impressive in World Cups. Till now, India have showed up 9 times and have played 2 semi-finals, 1 final and once ended third on the points table. There was a time when the women team was going through a rough patch but then these two ladies turned everything around. Bringing new energy in the dressing room, showing intent on the field, they helped the girls reach for loftier goals. 

India Women currently sit at number 4 in the ICC ODI ranking, but taking India to number 1 will no doubt be the sole mission of these two heavyweights. Raj and Goswami are in the twilight of their careers will be hoping to lift the prestigious trophy this time, as this is the only trophy which is missing from their cabinet. Playing what is probably their final world cup, they will be hoping to finish it off on high. 

The records of these two women and the way they served the Indian Cricket prove that they have been the “Pillars” of the team. The only worry is that once the Pillars retire, the building will be shaken up.

 

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Yatin Singh is a graduate of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, studied B.A (H) Journalism. Yatin,...

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