The Women’s World Cup has just ended in Mumbai. The crowd present to cheer for the Australians was significantly less than the one present at the Celebrity Cricket League match in Hyderabad. Yet, the quality of the cricket (despite the one-sided final, oddly reminiscent of the men’s final of 2003) played was quite advanced.
The triumph of the World Cup, despite the atrocious conditions and mismanagement, lies in the fact that the quality of the cricket was extremely high. The usual suspects have done well, and new names have appeared on the horizon. Over the past few years, they have actually evolved faster than the men, and women’s cricket as attractive a spectacle as any game of cricket as any other played in this planet.
So why should we watch more and more of women’s cricket?
1. The seamers lack pace, and hence have to make up for it with other attributes. The prodigious swing and movement off the track they manage to extract is something to be jealous about. They bowl slow — often intentionally — to make the ball curl or move, even in hostile conditions.
2. The spinners are not as tall, and hence they have no alternative but to flight the ball. Instead of throwing darts at the batswoman’s (oops, I almost used the word ‘batsman’ there) legs, they actually toss it up, reminding us of an art that is on the wane — thanks to the shortest format of the sport.
3. The spinners flight the ball a lot more, which means that they also get to turn the ball a lot more, often with a new ball. While their male counterparts are given the new ball only to take the pace off it, the female spinners bowl with a purpose — often extracting a turn with the new ball that will put the men to shame.
4. The batswomen are not generally as strong as the males. As a result, they do not go for ‘power cricket’ — and are hence less likely to hit ‘DLF Maximum’! However, they concentrate on the finer aspects — the deft touches and subtle placements — of the sport that are vanishing from the sport fast. A Mithali Raj cover drive is no less attractive than a Hashim Amla one.
5. This doesn’t mean that they cannot hit the ball hard: Deandra Dottin had a strike rate of 126.96 in the World Cup, hitting 28 fours and 12 sixes. That is 184 out of 226 runs — a whopping 81.4% runs scored in boundaries. It’s not just about the numbers: you’d have to struggle to find many harder hitters in men’s cricket. And she’s not the only one.
6. The fielders do not throw the ball as hard as the men, but they are as acrobatic as their male counterparts. Their natural agility and physical fitness make them quality fielders. They also cover a lot of ground surprisingly fast, and you’d be a fool to underestimate the accuracy of their throws.
7. The intensity of the matches is typically very high. The upset victory of the Sri Lankans against the English was in a match that would definitely go down in the annals of One-Day Internationals as one of the most closely fought encountered matches ever. The Sri Lankan celebration that followed wasn’t choreographed either.
8. Women’s cricket typically does not involve a lot of money and hype, and hence evoke a lot more innocence. The cricket is not about obtaining sponsorships or getting a huge Indian Premier League; it is only about the joy of playing cricket, turning up for your country, and winning matches.
9. If you think the women do not take their cricket seriously enough, think twice. Ellyse Perry took field with an injured ankle in the final. She slogged her way to a 22-ball 25; she stopped her run-up twice, trying desperately to bowl that first ball. Once she could, though, she broke the backbone of West Indies with figures of 10-3-19-3. West Indies never recovered from 41 for three.
10. Unlike the earlier days, when women’s cricket was typically dominated by the trinity of Australia, England, and New Zealand (with India providing the occasional surprise every now and then), new forces like West Indies and Sri Lanka have appeared on the horizon, and South Africa are not doing too badly either.
I would have given you an 11 reason (and cricket lists should ideally have 11 entries), but then, Lisa Sthalekar has announced her retirement on Monday. Sigh.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)
First Published: February 19, 2013, 10:26 am