Interest in women’s cricket in India has peaked following their brilliant performance at the recent Women’s World Cup while the International Cricket Council (ICC) unveiled a new research that shows the scale of the impact this summer’s Cricket World Cup has had on fans and new participants.
Prior to Sunday, July 23, 2017, only a handful of cricketers from the finalists could say they had previously played at Lord’s. Come the end of that enthralling day, all 22 – whether delighted English heroes or despairing Indian stars – were able to tell the tale of a truly momentous occasion.
More than 25,000 were at Lord’s to watch a spirited England come back from behind to secure its fourth ICC Women’s World Cup, defeating India, which lost its last seven wickets for 28 runs to go down by nine runs.
However, the 2017 ICC World Cup that saw England rising to glory, also witnessed a dream coming true for the Indian national women’s cricket team, for whom, this World Cup was an opportunity where they could put themselves to test and prove a point. This, not only brought prominence to the women’s team but also saw interest spike towards women’s cricket while the ICC made a similar observation.
A survey conducted by Nielsen Sports, on behalf of ICC, has shown that 93 pc of the people who took part in the exercise believed it was the ‘best standard’ of women’s cricket they had ever seen, and 82 pc tracked the World Cup more than any other women’s event in the past. The study was conducted among fans across Australia, England and Wales, India, New Zealand and South Africa, with the aim to probe the impact of the Women’s World Cup and how the women’s game is perceived globally. The survey stated that a whopping 92 pc of the fans in India felt they had seen an increase in media coverage of women’s cricket in the last two years.
Studies also indicate that more Indians are inclined towards watching women’s cricket following the national team’s performance at the recent World Cup. “It’s heartening to see the success of the ICC Women’s World Cup and the popularity of women’s cricket in India,” said Mithali Raj, the captain of the national women’s cricket team. “That so many people followed our progress at the World Cup proves that there is an appetite for women’s cricket in India and it will only grow in the coming years.”
Raj has been named as one of the most influential women in India by BBC and she is also currently the highest run-getter in ODIs and led the team to the ICC Women’s World Cup final in England. “The ICC Women’s Championship has contributed immensely in the growth of players and the competition at the top level has increased substantially. I’m sure the coming cycle of the championship will see some fiercely contested matches,” she added.
Social media also seemingly played a momentary role, especially in the Indian context to promote women’s cricket during the then ongoing world cup. Though buzz may have died down, it has provided the required impetus to promote cricket as a profession for women. Lalit Das, a local cricket trainer from Kolkata says, “After the recent World Cup hype, more schools are introducing cricket for girls in the school curriculum. Several parents came to me with their daughters with the hope of turning them into professionals. They said that the performance of the women’s cricket team in the World Cup encouraged them to train their daughters in cricket. One parent, in particular said that she wanted her daughter to become like Jhulan (read Jhulan Goswami) and wished to see her across news platforms and ‘Facebook’. She said that it was through social media that she got to know about the Indian women’s cricket team and their names.”
Incidentally, the survey stated that interest among respondents’ children was exciting for the future with almost 40 pc watching coverage of the event while 50 pc of respondents’ children were inspired to try playing the sport or play more cricket based on what they had seen at the ICC Women’s World Cup. Heather Knight, the England captain, stated, “It’s important for women’s cricket that we keep moving forward and the numbers from this research is encouraging. We want more people to know about our game and to come and watch so we can have more packed houses, like we had at Lord’s in the final of this year’s ICC Women’s World Cup.”
India made its Test debut in 1976, against West Indies, and its One Day International (ODI) debut at the 1978 World Cup, which it hosted for the first time. The team made it to the World Cup finals on two occasions against Australia in 2005 and against England in 2017. India has made it to the semi-finals on three other occasions, in 1997, 2000 and 2009. India’s Women Cricket Team was also in the semi-finals of the World Twenty-20 on two occasions once in 2009 and then in 2010.
At present, India is scheduled to play three matches in South Africa from February 5-10 in Round 1 of the second edition of the ICC Women’s ODI World Championship to be held from 2017-2020.