“If my bat didn’t get stuck, that run would have easily happened..”, Harmanpreet Kaur commented after the semi-final loss against Australia in the T20 World Cup earlier this year.
Why is it that the captain of the Indian national team who has been representing India for over 14 years commits a mistake like this? Harman has unarguably been the most clutch player for India in the past and when she, herself, makes an error like this; it is evident that there is something wrong with the process and not just the result.
Coming at the back of the U19 World Cup win, with Shafali Verma as the captain, India oozed confidence going into the T20 World Cup. Richa Ghosh had risen through the ranks and was emerging as a proper finisher for the Senior team. In the meantime, the senior team went to South Africa and lost to the host nation in the final of the T20 Tri-Series. The team got the much-needed match practice ahead of the big tournament and started it well.
The defeat came only in the semifinal against Australia who were five-time champions, seven-time finalists and then went on to win the World Cup. However, India looked like a favorite to win that match until Kaur was run out.
Earlier that season, Australia toured India in a 5-match T20I series which ended 4-1 in favour of the visitors; but India ended Australia’s 21-match unbeaten streak in 2022 with that one win.
Australia are undoubtedly the biggest powerhouse when it comes to women’s cricket around the world and yet they never disregard the importance of touring different countries and playing more matches throughout the year.
Since the World Cup, India has just toured Bangladesh for 3 T20Is and 3 ODI matches, winning the former series 2-1 and drawing the latter 1-1. On the other hand, Australia toured England for 1 Test, 3 ODIs, and 3 T20Is along with 2 ODIs against Ireland.
On top of that, in a bumper Ashes summer, the women’s contest started just one week after the men’s first Test Match. The campaign; “Ashes, Two Ashes” with Heather Knight and Ben Stokes at the centre of it; garnered attention from all across the globe. “The only thing better than an Ashes series? Two.”
Australia won the Test, but England won both the ODI and the T20I series. Despite being the World Champions; Australia challenged themselves against England. There is no greater lesson than failure and Australia surely knows the importance of this.
The entire concept of organizing a Women’s Premier League might be a failure if that isn’t followed up with international match practice. Empowering women in cricket means providing equal opportunities, resources, and exposure to compete at the highest level which can only be achieved by practicing at that level.
This issue has been going on for ages and it still isn’t addressed properly. To present an example- the Indian men’s team is scheduled to play 8 Tests, 18 ODIs, and 17 T20Is in 2023 apart from the World Cup and the Asia Cup; while on the other hand, the Indian women’s team has just played 3 ODIs and 8 T20Is in 2023 apart from the World Cup and the Asian Games. The statistics speak for themselves but unfortunately, we don’t, year after year.
The lack of a proper plan of action continues to dampen the efforts made by our cricketers. Despite all of this, we go into the Asian Games as favorites to win Gold. The fans expect the players to be at their best, win all the matches, and win every trophy while they continue to neglect the process over and over again.
Rectifying this imbalance and providing ample opportunities for women cricketers is not just about achieving sporting success but also about fostering equality and inclusivity in the world of cricket. It is imperative to prioritize women’s cricket and ensure that the women’s team receives an equitable share of international matches, especially before going into a big tournament.