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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 39-42 September 17 - October 8, 2022 - Bumper issue

What if they missed the gold medal, the Indian women cricket team won the hearts of people | Bharat Dogra

Friday 16 September 2022, by Bharat Dogra

The Indian women’s cricket team was on the verge of clinching the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, but just missed out on this much-coveted goal. Till the last over the result could have gone either way, but being more experienced, the Australian team could win. It does not matter. A T20 match result can go either way within a matter of five minutes or even less, particularly in such a closely contested match as this final was. Congratulations Australia and well-played India.

If we look at the overall series and not just at this single match, it is clear that the Indian women may not have won the gold medal but they have won the hearts of people. Although India lost twice to world champions Australia, this was in very keenly contested matches where the result could have gone either way. Reaching the final with consistently good performances after losing the very first match to Australia was itself highly commendable for the Indian women, achieved with great team effort.

While the entire team deserves our praise, in particular the all-round performance of the captain Harmanpreet Kaur was nothing short of magnificent. Her total commitment to the team and the game was also evident in the deep anguish on her face as India quickly moved from a likely win to defeat in the final. Don’t be so sad, brave lady, there will be many more opportunities in these days of many cricket events.

In addition, the performance in the Commonwealth Games cricket of opening batsman Smriti Mandhana ( who could not click in the final but otherwise played brilliantly) and medium pacer Renuka Thakur was brilliant. In the midst of so much excess of sports, India’s matches drew good public notice, as was most evident in the final and self-final. The semi-final victory against England was very encouraging.

India’s women’s cricket has thus now come very close to the ‘83’ moment experienced by the men’s cricket team under the inspiring leadership of Kapil Dev at the time of winning the World Cup for the first time after defeating the mighty West Indies in 1983. In fact, the Indian women were very close to capturing this 83 moment on August 7 in the Commonwealth Games final. Don’t worry, brave hearts, there will be other opportunities aplenty.

The lesson that this brave team must carry from this loss is to keep their cool in times of sudden reversals. As long as Harmanpreet Kaur ( who scored 63 in 41 balls ) and Jemimah Rodrigues were together in their great third-wicket stand, the match appeared to be well in their grasp, but the collapse after these two left could have been avoided with a cooler approach, particularly by avoiding the run-outs.

More experience and better reflection will no doubt add to the ability of this team in coping with such difficult situations. Meanwhile, they have already succeeded in giving a big boost to women’s cricket specifically and women’s sports generally. Cricket being a mass involvement game, the contribution of women’s cricket in uplifting women’s sports in India may be stronger than, say, wrestling or boxing, other sports in which Indian women have been doing rather well. We have high hopes in the future from women’s cricket as well as hockey, in terms of not just winning medals and championships, but even more in terms of uplifting women’s sports.

In fact one fails to see why such exciting performances by Indian women teams have failed to get the same support, encouragement, involvement and rewards as men’ teams have been receiving. Their matches are no less thrilling and exciting, and one hopes that the well-deserved encouragement they need will not be denied to them for too long.

The cause of encouraging sports among women and girls in a country like India has a wider rationale that goes beyond tournament victories. In those countries like India where gender discrimination remains a big issue and where girls and women continue to face too many restraints in realizing their full potential due to too many restrictions being placed on them, the increasing role of sports in their life and society’s acceptance of this can be an important liberating force in their life. This is impeded at present by not just social conservatism but also by less than adequate facilities for women’s sports and also various problems in sports institutions that have been highlighted from time to time, particularly in the context of sportswomen. With corrective actions in these contexts, India can contribute much more in terms of progress of women sports. International triumphs and medals will only be an incidental and less important aspect of this achievement, the wider achievement will be that of women finding a wider social role to realize their potential and make their social contributions.

This will be best achieved by taking special care to take women’s sports to relatively poorer sections as well, to small farmers and farm workers, fisherfolk and construction workers, tribal communities and Dalits, where much-hidden talent awaits us.

(Author: Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include A Day in 2071, Man over Machine, and Protecting Earth for Children)

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