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INDIAN GIRL CHAMPIONS

Indian Women’s Cricket is on a glorious spiral of rise and rise! In a monumental feat, Indian girls lifted the inaugural U-19 T20 World Cup in South Africa and made it a Super Sunday for Indian Sport. The fantastic victory over England that made them Champions of the World in Under-19 category has ended the World Cup drought for Women’s cricket in India. Indian girls defeated England by 7 wickets with 6 overs left to spare in a thoroughly impressive World Cup campaign. The remarkable triumph in the first-ever Women’s U-19 T20 World Cup inspired BCCI Secretary Jay Shah to announce a prize money of 5 crore Rupees for the entire team including the support staff.

The Women in Blue were dominant all through the final. Indian Captain and a member of the senior team as well, Shafali Verma, decided to field first, surprising many experts. But an excellent bowling and fielding effort saw India skittling England out for just 68. Fast bowler, Titas Sidhu bowled with discipline and was rewarded with 2 wickets for just 6 runs in her quota of 4 overs. Along with Sidhu, spinners Archana Devi and Parshavi Chopra also picked 2 wickets apiece to set up a modest run chase for the batters.

With Shafali Verma as the opener, India looked confident to gun down the chase as fast as possible. But it wasn’t to be so. Shafali fell after a brisk 15 of 11 balls. She hit a straight six over long off but fell later trying to repeat her feat against the English leggie, Hannah Baker, and was caught at mid-on. There was a slight stutter briefly after her wicket as Shafali’s opening partner, Shweta Sehrawat also got out with the team score just 20 in the fourth over.

Despite the loss of two early wickets, Somya Tiwari and Gongadi Trisha brought stability to the proceedings and calmed the nerves in the Indian dressing room. They stitched a breezy 46-run partnership in the next 9 overs to bring India to the brink of a famous victory. Trisha fell with India needing just 3 runs to win but Tiwari was well set by then and ensured that no further damage was done and the team reached the target with ease.

Earlier, in the tournament India had a terrible hiccup against Australia in the Super Six round. After topping their Group D, which had South Africa, UAE and Scotland, against Australia, the team was bundled out for 87 which the Aussies chased comfortably. But the Indian team bounced back with a thumping win over Sri Lanka and assured themselves of a semi-final spot. In the semifinal against New Zealand on Friday, India’s brilliant performance saw them sealing an entry into the final. India defeated the Kiwis by eight wickets. After restricting them to just 107/9 in 20 overs, India chased down the 110- run target in barely 14.2 overs.

India’s triumph at the inaugural Women’s U19 T20 World Cup has come just a few days after the WPL netted Rs 951 crore for broadcast rights and Rs 4,669 crore for the five franchises in the women’s version of the IPL. Most experts see it as a big leap for women’s cricket in India as the bidding for teams of inaugural WPL broke the records of the inaugural men’s IPL in 2008.

The WPL is likely to be a women’s counterpart to the money-spinner Indian Premier League – and the glory at the inaugural U19 T20 World Cup is bound to be a huge boost for Indian eves. The WPL riches came just a few months after a landmark move last October when the BCCI announced that it will implement a new pay equity policy for its contracted women cricketers and provide men and women cricketers the same match fees. As a result, women cricketers will be paid the same match fee as the men - Test matches at Rs 15 lakhs, ODI matches at Rs 6 lakhs and T20I at Rs 3 lakhs.

The crowning glory at the U19 T20 World Cup has come just a few months after Indian women became the Asian Queens for the seventh time thrashing Sri Lanka by 8 wickets in the final. Their victory came barely a month after the men’s team failed to even reach the finals. For too long women’s cricket drew its identity from the men’s version. But given this triumph at the global level and increasing prize money in the game, Indian women’s cricket is now well on its way to crafting a major revolution and a distinct identity of its own.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

SIDDHAARTH MAHAN The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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