By Annesha Ghosh:
If the hellish pitch at the Eden Gardens made life difficult for both the Pakistan and India batsmen here in Kolkata on the 19th of March, the Feroz Shah Kotla wicket unleashed its own demons during the match between their female counterparts earlier. But not so much, perhaps, as could be made out by the uncharacteristically clueless strokeplay on the part of the India Women batting line-up, compounded by some tight bowling and sensible field-placements from the Pakistan Women’s team. Case in point: India were 7 for the loss of 2 wickets in the powerplay while Pakistan scored 39 for 1. Put to bat by Pakistan’s captain Sana Mir, juicy full-tosses were only jabbed at for a run, and easy singles were never converted into definite twos during India’s innings which ended at 66-7 at the end of 20 overs.
However, with their proven track record of having successfully defended similar low totals against Pakistan on previous occasions, the Indian eves came back strong in the latter half of the game, and quite dramatically so, with skipper Mithali Raj taking a superb catch at cover and wicket-keeper Sushma Verma effecting two stunning run-outs within a matter of just 10 balls. At 77 for 6, with their inexperienced lower-order exposed, the pressure was clearly telling on the visitors. Pakistan still needed 20 runs off 24 balls when it suddenly started pouring heavily and refused to cease until the cut-off time to resume play was well past.
Had the game reached its natural conclusion, the result would have been imminently different, for at the fag end of Pakistan’s innings, the momentum was clearly with the Girls in Blue. But, to the dismay of Raj and her girls, the rain-gods robbed the Indian eves of the chance of getting those two crucial points ahead of facing group toughies England and West Indies this week.
In light of the aforementioned things, the events that preceded my first live stadium experience of an India versus Pakistan ICC World tournament face-off at the iconic Eden Gardens on Saturday seem to bear some import.
Earlier at 11 a.m. on Saturday, when my friend and I had gone to the Mohammedan Sporting Ground, right opposite Eden Gardens, to collect the two tickets I had won through the online lucky draw, we were greeted by a platoon of journalists from leading national and international media houses. They went about interviewing many an individual from among the 500-strong crowd of people that had queued up to collect their tickets to the historic encounter.
At one point during our wait at the counter, an English journalist from the BBC, followed by his team of Indian camerapersons walked up to us and asked if we were willing to answer a few questions regarding the much-anticipated ‘clash of the arch-rivals’. While we did go ahead with the interview and spoke for about four minutes each, both my friend and I were disappointed at the fact that all the questions were invariably centred on the game between the India versus Pakistan Men’s teams. It almost appeared as though there wasn’t any acknowledgement, let alone, the importance that the ‘Other(ed)’ ‘clash of the arch-rivals’ at the Kotla deserved to have been accorded to.
What panned out between the two teams led by M.S. Dhoni and Shahid Afridi, needs no recounting. Following the celebrations that accompanied the night’s heroics by Virat Kohli and company at the Eden Gardens, I woke up next morning reminiscing the memorable scenes that I was fortunate enough to have been able to witness live at the iconic stadium in Kolkata amidst 65,000 odd spectators. The feeling, admittedly, is one of joyous disbelief and is likely to linger on until…I don’t quite know when.
However, somewhere within, I could not help but mull over India Women’s ‘undeserved’ loss, courtesy the shenanigans of the ever-unreliable D/L method. A little mercy from the heavens above could have helped them fashion what most, if not all, ‘Indian cricket supporters’ were praying for, as occasions like these are rare and possibly the only realistic shots for some at making the world take notice of their existence.
A fan’s journey from anxiously sitting before a nondescript television set at home till as late as 6:45 p.m. and watching 11 cricketers donning the blue jersey and fight it out before an 8000-strong crowd at the Feroz Shah Kotla, to rushing to the Mecca of Cricket minutes later, where the gods themselves had descended amidst great pomp and passion, was so close to being the kind of perfect she was praying for it to be. So close.
And yet, she’d be cheering her team on when they come out to play against England Women’s team on Tuesday, March 22, at the HPCA Stadium. “Go for glory, India Women! Win it for yourselves, your fans and the generations of women cricketers to follow. Praying for your triumph this World T20 over the best teams in the fray and over all the discrimination you’ve ever had to contend with.”