A career spanning four World Cups; one World Cup runner-up medal; more than 3,000 international runs; India captaincy; Padma Shri awardee; Arjuna awardee; television pundit; writer; broadcaster. This player has done it all. And now, yet again, she has made history.
The Marylebone Cricket Club, residents of Lord's at St John's Wood in London and lawmakers of the game, awarded Anjum Chopra its honorary life membership, making her the first Indian woman to receive the honour.
Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag were also included, but Chopra's name stands out for two reasons: Firstly, 21 Indians have been awarded the membership before, starting with Nari Contractor in 1969. But Chopra is the first female on the list. Secondly, she is only the 10th woman outside the United Kingdom to get the honour. Five Australians, four New Zealanders, and 20 women from England currently hold the life membership.
Until two decades ago, however, that number was zero. It was only in 1998 that the MCC opened its membership to women at all. For 211 years before that, the MCC remained an all boys' club. Only when their "no women allowed" policy became one of the reasons the MCC was denied funding, did they finally gain the two-thirds majority required to allow women to become members (only just though; 69.8 percent for, and a considerable 30.2 percent against).
The MCC now has more than 600 female members, and 30 female honorary life members, Chopra being the most recent inductee. "I am elated and humbled," she said, speaking to Firstpost about the announcement.
It was the latest arrow in an illustrious quiver. With the bat, the left-hander was a vital cog in what was probably the best ever Indian women's team in the early 2000s, which reached its zenith, when they reached their first and only ODI World Cup final in 2005. A brilliant slip fielder, she also led the country in 28 ODIs.
Even off the field, she is probably the most recognizable face in women's cricket, having worked in commentary for multiple television channels.
According to the MCC rules, "Those persons are elected as honorary life members whose membership, whether for services to cricket or for any other reason, the MCC Committee considers to be especially desirable in the interests of the club."
Firstpost asked Chopra to give us an insight into the process of her inclusion. "I am not aware of the process. I received the honor and I accepted it with pride," she said.
Pride is certainly the dominant emotion, and all of Twitter got behind Chopra to congratulate her.
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) September 7, 2016
— Mel 'MJ' Jones (@meljones_33) September 6, 2016
Coming a fortnight after India's two Olympic medals were brought home by female athletes, Chopra hopes this development will be another boost to women's sport in the country. "It should spur more women to take up sports. Indian women have broken barriers to achieve greater heights, as the nation witnessed, especially during the Olympics," she said.
As for Chopra herself, having become one of the first women to enter the IPL commentary box, she has broken yet another barrier. One that will hopefully see more Indian women recognised "for services to cricket". And at the grass root level, more young girls playing sport.
Snehal Pradhan is a former India and Maharashtra cricketer. She tweets at @SnehalPradhan
Published Date: Sep 08, 2016 11:10 am | Updated Date: Sep 08, 2016 10:35 pm