This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by juggernautbooks. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘The World Cup Was A Chak De! Moment In Women’s Cricket’: Rajdeep Sardesai Writes

More from juggernautbooks

By Rajdeep Sardesai:

You know the Indian women’s cricket has made a major breakthrough when the man in a suit thrusts a business card, introduces himself, and says, “Hi, I am Smriti Mandhana’s business manager!”

We are in the national capital at an India Today’s Mind Rocks event, a celebration of youth power. Lined up is a ‘star’ panel of women cricketers, including the shy 21-year-old from Sangli in Maharashtra. Smriti is joined by the ebullient Veda Krishnamurthy and Dr ‘J’ aka Jhulan Goswami, the ‘senior citizen’ of women’s cricket in the country, who has been affectionately nicknamed by her teammates.


As we enter Siri Fort auditorium, the crowd breaks out into raucous cheering. We could be in the presence of the much-loved men in blue, but here it’s the women who have taken centre stage. When Krishnamurthy, with her blue tinted hair and spunky spirit, does a Hrithik Roshan-like jig, the audience chants her name. Virat’s star power has been replaced by Veda, if only momentarily.

Cut to Chennai, where a ‘wellness’ company has invited Mithali Raj, the Indian women’s team’s captain, to be a motivational speaker. Owing to her fractured foot, Raj is wheeled into the room, and the audience gives her a standing ovation. When she finishes her speech, a slew of selfie hunters gather around her.


There is something strange going on ever since the Indian women’s cricket team stormed into the finals of the World Cup in July this year. Even if the team narrowly missed out winning the final — a game they were in control of till the last few overs — the joy of watching the Indian women shine on the sport’s biggest stage is still undimmed. “Indian women’s cricket needed a dhamaka to be noticed,” Goswami tells me, “reaching the finals provided that dhamaka!”

In 1983, Kapil Dev’s team stunned the world by beating the mighty West Indies. That one day in Lords changed Indian cricket forever. That game was played in the nascent years of colour television in the country when India was still to unshackle the power of the marketplace; the women’s final was telecast live across the country in the age of 24×7 live satellite television where globalization is the new mantra.

If 1983 made Kapil Dev a folk hero, the women too, have found their potential all-around ‘star’, also coincidentally from Chandigarh. Harmanpreet Kaur’s 171 run blitz against the title holders, Australia, in the World Cup semi-finals was reminiscent of Dev’s great innings against Zimbabwe in the ’83 World Cup. Every six hit by Harmanpreet was lustily cheered. It brought our male-dominated newsroom to a halt, the realisation slowly sinking in that this was a woman challenging every stereotype of women’s cricket.

“She sure can hit the ball powerfully,” a colleague admitted grudgingly. It was almost as if with every stroke, Harmanpreet was smashing the glass ceiling that extended beyond the boundary.


I recall that in the early 1980s, Diana Edulji, who was then the Indian women’s team’s star bowler, would bowl at the Cricket Club of India nets in Mumbai. “Whatever you do, don’t get out to her,” one of my team-mates warned me. Sure enough, I stepped out to drive, was beaten in the flight, and out-stumped. As I was leaving the nets, the team-mate snidely remarked, “You can’t even play a woman!”

Almost four decades later, no one will ever try and put an Indian woman cricketer down again. The significance of what happened at the World Cup in England is that women’s cricket in India will now finally be taken seriously. While lifting the Cup would have been a huge bonus, the journey to the finals must be seen as Indian women’s cricket’s Chak De! moment, a real-life version of what our women hockey players achieved on-screen, and a milestone that should end decades of rank prejudice in the country’s most popular sport.

For years, Indian women cricketers have suffered because cricket was seen as an exclusively male preserve. It isn’t just that The Women’s Cricket Association wasn’t recognised by the BCCI till 2006, or that the players were paid a pittance.

The truth is, the entire system was ranged against the idea of women having an ‘equal’ right to play the game. To participate in the Women’s World Cup in in New Zealand in 1982, the team members had to cough up  ₹10,000 from their own pockets! While playing in the national championships, they were denied the right to play at the best grounds and often stayed in tin sheds and slept on the floor.


Today, all that has dramatically changed. From being paid just  ₹1000 per day for a four-day match in the early 2000s, the players now have contracts that run into several lakhs. There is still a huge gap between the crorepati male cricketers and the women, but it is no longer a sport where the players have to struggle to chase their dreams.

But, this isn’t just about the colour of money. The rise of women’s cricket is a triumph of the democratic spirit, of breaking gender barriers, of rising above bias, of giving every Indian woman the right to hope. This, after all, is a country where women still have to fight for equal opportunity in public spaces, where women have had to hit the streets to demand stronger laws for protection, where sexual harassment at the workplace isn’t uncommon. But, when you watch a Mitali Raj or a Harmanpreet in action on the field, they are inspirational figures, hope-givers in an unequal society, role models for a more liberated, less chauvinistic society.

In conversation, I ask Smriti if she is recognised on the street. “In Mumbai, maybe not, but in Sangli, yes. It’s difficult for me to go out without being surrounded by fans,” she replies with a hint of a smile. And what of Dr J, the world’s highest wicket-taker in women’s ODI cricket? “Well, there is a biopic being made on my life,” Goswami reminds me triumphantly. “And I colour my hair with a new shade before every major tournament,” pipes in the ever-enthusiastic Krishnamurthy.

From personal business managers to biopics to coloured hair, Indian women cricketers are now trailblazers. While the men may have their tattoos and fitness diets, the women have their distinctive styles as well.

Post script: I finished writing my book Democracy’s XI in early July just before the women scored their big hit in England. If I had to write it all over again, my team would surely have a woman in the eleven, not so much as a token inclusion but a celebration of the fact that 70 years after independence, cricket is no longer a male bastion.

You can read Rajdeep’s book, Democracy’s XI here.

You must be to comment.

More from juggernautbooks

Similar Posts

By Amya Roy

By Mythili Kamath

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below