Journey of Indian women: Pushovers to Cup contenders

Last Updated: Mar 06, 2009, 00:00 AM IST

Biswajit Jha

It is perhaps for the first time that women’s cricket World Cup has managed to create a hype in India. From the day Jhulan Goswami was appointed captain of Indian eves for the 2009 World Cup, the team has got reasonably good press coverage, a thing unprecedented in India, as the country is obsessed with just the men’s version of the game. If one analyses the performance of India’ s women cricketers over the years, it’ s not difficult to see that the women, despite facing difficulties, have made significant strides forward.

The first women’ s international match dates back to 1934 when Australia took on England at Brisbane. However, India played their first international match 42 years later, in 1976 against West Indies at Bangalore. The team was led by Shantha Rangaswamy. Though women cricket in India started late, it has made tremendous progress since that first international match.

The Women ’s World Cup commenced in 1973 (host England won it) and it was in 1978, in the second edition, that India first took part in it. Only four teams- India, Australia, England and New Zealand- featured in it and the Indian girls finished last. They had a rather forgettable outing as they failed to manage even a single win in the whole tournament. Though Australia came out victorious, the tournament could neither evoke any response, nor could it manage to get an official sponsor.

The next World Cup of 1982, in New Zealand, was the first to get a sponsor- Hansells Vita Fres. Apart from the four teams that played the previous Cup, an International XI competed as well. The Indian eves started off disastrously, only to bounce back in the later stages of the tournament with some scintillating victories, especially against the International XI.

In terms of personal milestones, Indian players came into international prominence for the first time in this tournament. Indian batter Fowzeih Khalili became the top run-getter while Shubanghi Kulkarni impressed one and all with the ball, scoring a total of 20 wickets. However, like the ’73 World Cup, Australia again stamped their superiority by winning for the second consecutive time.

The Australians went on to make a hat-trick by winning the 1988 edition of the World Cup in which the Indians didn’t participate.

It was in the 1993 World Cup that the Indian side first showed real potential. For the first time, as many as eight teams took part in the tournament which was won by England. The Indian team performed really well as they finished the tournament at the 4th spot with Anju Jain and Daina Edulji impressing with the bat and the ball respectively. Jain averaged 65 while left-arm spinner Edulji claimed 14 wickets, that too at the ripe age of 37.

The next edition of the World Cup was hosted by India in 1997. India reached the semis for the first time in the World Cup history and emerged as a force to reckon with. In the semi-finals, they were beaten narrowly by subsequent champions Australia.
The graph of performance of the Indian team started to rise as the team reached the semifinals of the 2000 World Cup. And in 2005, they narrowly missed the crown when they lost the final to Australia. Mithali Raj batted really well in the tournament, while the present captain Jhulan Goswami performed well with the ball. Mithali ’s brilliant 91 in the semis helped the team get a comfortable 40-run win.