The date was 6 January, 2002.
I needed the scorecard to remind my incurably unreliable memory of the date, but I remember vividly what the day felt like. It was the day I found what I would dream of for the next decade.
There was a collection of legends to choose inspiration from. England’s Lucy Pearson, the fearsome left arm fast bowler. India’s Neetu David, who had more tricks up her full-sleeves than Ocean’s Eleven. Clare Connor, who was captain then, and has perhaps done more now for women’s cricket than any other administrator. But I had eyes only for the debutante.
Short hair, lanky frame, a centimetre taller than me (which is something, considering I stand 180 cm tall). White ball in hand, she steamed in unreservedly. Then just a 19-year-old hellion, Jhulan Goswami enthralled and enticed me into being a fast bowler, and set me on a path that would see me be her new ball partner six years later.
This throwback comes from England Women’s tour of India in 2002. I watched the first four matches on a grainy Doordarshan, and the fifth live, in my hometown of Pune.
I do not indulge in this nostalgia – however tempting it is to lose myself there for a while longer –needlessly. That memorable series, a full 14 years ago, ended 5-0 in favour of India. It was the last time India would whitewash a top six team.
Cut to the present. On Wednesday, India completed a 3-0 sweep of the ODI series against the West Indies, a result that no one, least of all me, had expected in the lead up to this series. Before the start of the three games at Vijayawada, India were in sixth place (13 points) on the ICC Women’s Championship table, while the West Indies were fourth (22 points). The West Indies were one win away from securing one of the automatic qualification slots for the ICC Women’s World Cup to be held in England next year.
India, were almost certain to be relegated to the qualifiers, languishing in the bottom four. Moreover, the last time the West Indies were in India, they denied the hosts a spot in the World T20 semifinals, and went on to win the title, making history in the progress. This pointed to a competitive series, but I never felt that the Windies would still find themselves searching for a way to book tickets to England.
IND bt. WI & have overtaken their NRR - this means if the ICC mandate points from PAK series are *shared* IND will qualify directly for WC.
— CRICKETher (@crickether) November 16, 2016
To make matters more pleasing, the star of the show was not Mithali Raj, for once. Veda Krishnamurthy, with her parents among those in the audience, topped the run charts comfortably, scoring two half centuries in the three games. She ended the ODI leg averaging 131 at a strike rate of almost 80.
“I was coming off a good Challenger Trophy”, Veda told Firstpost, (She scored 126 runs in the three games on bowler friendly wickets) “Today when I had to take the responsibility I just applied whatever I learned from Challengers and the last two games.”
The series win will be a timely salve to these players; most of them still must carry hidden wounds of India’s horror WT20, where they failed to make the semifinals despite enjoying home advantage. But the scoreline will also ease the pain of older injuries, suffered many times over the last decade.
Since 2004, India have endured six ODI whitewashes, three each at the hands of England and Australia. One of these was in home conditions. These results highlight the lack of success that India have had against quality opposition, and makes this current victory against the West Indies even sweeter. After all, the Windies boast some top notch players. Captain Stafanie Taylor was player of the tournament in the WT20 2016. Deandra Dottin holds the record for the first T20 century in women’s cricket. Both are all rounders of the highest calibre, but neither made the kind of impact they would have liked in these ODIs, and some credit must go to the Indians for that. In other words, this whitewash is a big deal. Also because it took so long to come.
The last time it happened, Jhulan Goswami had played only five ODIs. Now she has 151.
The last time it happened, Smriti Mandhana and Dipti Sharma, the openers in Wednesday’s game, were still learning to subtract.
The last time it happened, the BCCI probably didn’t pay women’s cricket much heed, as it was run by the Women’s Cricket Association of India. Now, they are the custodians of the game.
While the Indian team will celebrates a hard earned win, the strobe lights they dance to cast shadows that cannot be ignored. These matches were neither broadcast on TV nor livestreamed. Nobody got to see Deepti’s athletic run out that turned Wednesday’s game, or the 28 boundaries that Veda and Raj struck in the series. No one will be inspired by Jhulan Goswami, the way I was when I watched that series on Doordarshan, because no one has seen her bowl.
The fact is driven home harder by the scoreline; nothing gains a sport fans like a winning team. The entire series smacks of opportunity lost; even the most rudimentary broadcast, using the feed from the video analyst’s camera, could have inspired tens, if not hundreds of young girls to bowl like Goswami and bat like Raj.
“It feels good to have them watching," said Veda of having her parents among those watching. If only it was more than just her parents watching.
The writer is a former international cricketer and now a freelance journalist, she tweets at @SnehalPradhan
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Updated Date: Nov 17, 2016 12:42:52 IST