Last week, I was traveling in the metro and was engrossed in my mobile with the updates of Pakistan vs Srilanka Champions Trophy league match. (And no I wasn’t blurting out gibberish phrases like “fine-leg” and “night-watchman” abruptly). Suddenly, the young man sitting next to me tapped on my back “what is the score?” he asked. As I told him the score, the man sitting in the front asked: “jo jeetega, semifinal me jayega na?” (The team that wins will qualify for the semifinals, right?) As we nodded and made some remarks about Pakistan playing well, the lady sitting beside him, presumably his wife, chipped in: “badhiya hai Pakistan se fir match ho jaye final me, maza aayega” (it’s a good thing. India will play against Pakistan in the finals it will be great fun). Soon enough, a conversation started and topics shifted from the prospects of the semi-finals and finals to the Indo-Pak clash to the form of the current team to the movies on Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni.
In India, cricket is an emotion. Nothing can connect random people, who belong to different walks of life, the way cricket can. (Politics too works as a good ice-breaker, but certainly not in the league of cricket). If cricket is a religion, then we Indians are its most loyal devotees. We find an instant connection even with strangers, while reminiscing those fond memories, recalling iconic moments of cricketing history and also, venting out frustration and anger over the atrocious performances of our team, like the recent drubbing in the Champions Trophy 2017 finale.
While Indian cricket has always been studded with iconic moments and larger than life characters adding new dimensions to the game; it is to our credit, how we always give them their due, in terms of love, encouragement respect, fandom and fanfare. Yes, no sport can be successful without an audience, those who love and criticize the players, those who encourage. The stature of cricket in India is a result of the sense of belongingness we feel towards it and the love we have endowed it with. And what do we get from it? An adrenaline rush. Goosebumps. Pride. Nail biting moments. Infinite cherishable memories, we love to reminisce over and over again.
And that precisely is the reason why we fans deserve no less. It would be unfair on our part, if we deprive ourselves of the charm and aura of cricket at fullest. We worship our cricketers as Gods and they reciprocate by their wizardry on the field. But what about the Goddesses? To us, Sachin, Dhoni, Kohli and Dravid aren’t merely great cricketers, but they are personalities. It is Sachin’s humility, Dravid’s perseverance, Dhoni’s coolness, Kohli’s aggression, Sehwag’s swag that has struck a chord with us because we have seen them, lived through them, loved them and learnt from them. But it is high time we opened our hearts (and television sets) to the Goddesses ruling the same 22 yards, with same elegance and bravado as men’s cricket. Let us add some more personalities to our prized list of cricket icons.
As Mithali Raj and her girls battle it out for the most prestigious title in the game the Women’s Cricket World Cup, it is time to bleed blue again. The game we adore is the same in every way—same colour, same spirit and (those who have followed women’s cricket recently, would agree) the same level of competitiveness, just faces are different. If Virat Kohli is our run-machine, with an inimitable chasing record; Mithali Raj is the world record-holder with her 7th consecutive half-century, scored in the opening match against England. A feat unprecedented in India cricket, with Tendulkar and Dravid both having five consecutive half-tons to their name.
While Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan hold the proud record of highest opening partnership in ODIs (282 runs), Poonam Raut and Deepti Sharma have the corresponding world record with humungous 320 run stand. If you saw the opening match, you would know the direct hits by Deepti Sharma or Harmanpreet Kaur or the splendid catch by Veda Krishnamurthy were at par with the fielding standards set by Ravindra Jadeja and Virat Kohli. What cricket lover would not feel the urge to watch these wonderful ladies in action, especially with such awe-inspiring world records and statistics?
We know how difficult it is to become a cricketer in India and that too, a female cricketer with all kinds of gender stereotypes pitted against them. These wonderful women deserve heartfelt gratitude to have donned the Indian colours, let alone the fact that their level of competence is at par with the Men’s cricket team, even though the men’s team enjoys incomparable popularity. And that, my dear cricket lovers, is our loss, not theirs. They will keep bringing laurels to Indian sport with all their devotion and commitment; it is our loss if we miss the chance of treating ourselves with the wonderful cricket these valiant ladies are playing.
So, my dear co-cricket lovers, while we keep cheering for our men in blue playing in the Caribbean islands, let’s root for the women bleeding blue in England, as our beloved nation battles it out for the most desired trophy in cricket.
Cheers to the men and women in blue.
Cheers to the men and women in blue.