The pre-departure press conference of the Indian women’s team ahead of tour of England wasn’t one compared to the men’s,where a media scrum would see camera mikes and questions thrown at the cricketers. The small room at the MCA-BKC recreation centre was a quiet,leisurely affair with only a few scribes directing questions at India captain Mithali Raj,who answered them all in no hurry whatsoever.
Mithali alongside coach Anju Jain and manager Gargi Banerjee,were quizzd on the team’s preparations. Was the team confident? Why had the track record been so poor in the past one year? Mithali insisted England would be a tough tour for sure but she was hopeful of returning with good returns. Like in the past,the Indian women’s team will again carry the tag of hopefuls on their bags. The word learning experience has been quite old in the dictionary of women’s team and Mithali says her team this time has prepared with the boys U-19 team in Mysore where conditions were quite similar to ones in England.
I won’t say we will win but we will play positive cricket. With the World Cup and Asia Cup coming up,we have to be positive and confident. England conditions are tough for every cricketer. It is a challenge for us. England is a challenging place. I have played many tournaments there and I am sure with the experience,we will do well. The team played a quadrangular last year around the same time. Though the players are not inexperienced,we are a young side and looking forward to the series, Mithali said confidently.
Experience has been on Indian women’s side but results have not,over several years. They lost to Australia at home a few months ago and there has been no progress as far as their lack of consistency in performances go. The Indian board have welcomed women’s cricket into their wings but in reality they have declined the women the same status as the men’s team.
The Indian board has seven domestic tournaments for the men the entire season,excluding their new rich baby IPL. In contrast,the women’s domestic structure has only eleven games to offer in the whole season. The women’s team plays only two tournaments over a season_one dayers and a T20 each_with the two-day outings stopped few seasons ago.
Need more games
India womens team coach Anju Jain says that like the men’s domestic teams get more matches to play,the women’s team should also be given more chances. We had earlier requested more matches for women’s team and also sought to start two-day games which had stopped. But nothing has happened yet. We need more matches to get more players and more match practice, Jain explains.
It was just a few weeks back when BCCI’s technical committee headed by Sourav Ganguly brought a structural change to the Indian board’s domestic cricket but no one raised any issue of women’s cricket. The women’s wing has remained in the shadow for a while now. Mithali agrees with Anju and says that more matches will give a chance to showcase performance and earn more experience.
As a player we all want to play more matches and we don’t ask more than that. If you see teams like England and other teams,they play more matches than us. We have only a few games and we have to do well in those limited opportunities, Mithali adds.
Interestingly,the Indian women’s team has more international games then domestic games in their calender. At present,there is a zonal meet with four teams playing four games each every year and then proceeding to the knock-out stages. Two teams from each zone contest knock-out stages and if any particular side doesn’t qualify then the season is over for those players.
We are hoping that one day we will also get 15-16 games in each season. This is too less a number for any player, Anju says. The fact remains that expecting more from women’s team internationally will be harsh in such circumstances.
There are no resources,no fame,with limited back-up and limited monetary gains. Mithali was soon asked whether women should also have an Indian Premier League in the coming year.
She smiles and candidly says that women’s cricket is not popular.
It is too early to think of IPL for women. Women’s cricket is not popular. We should start playing T20 at a fast pace. Women’s cricket world over should be marketed. If we start with a lower scale and market womens cricket well,then we can think of a larger scale. I am sure it will happen one day, she ended.