The Women’s Cricket World Cup is over and the English team won it for a fourth time, beating India in the final. This should not be seen as a setback to women’s cricket in India. It certainly is a disappointment as we reached the final and were within a whisker of winning the match. Nevertheless, the commitment and professionalism of the Indian girls were remarkable. They were second to none in terms of the quality of the game they played. The batters were superb. The bowlers were capable of taking ten wickets in every match. The fielders did not allow anything go past them and some amazing catches were taken. The captain exhibited excellent leadership qualities.
However, winning a tournament depends on a large number of imponderables. Possibly some of these did not weigh in favour of the Indian team. We need to see the performance of our team holistically and not merely by the outcome of the final game. It is undeniable that the statement that we made over the entire tournament was most convincing. It was of a team which was announcing its arrival on the world stage. In the 2005 championship, it was felt that we had managed it [India were runners-up behind Australia] more by fluke than due to our class. Not making it to the finals in the next two championships [India was third in 2009 and seventh in 2013] probably confirmed that feeling.
But I do not think anyone of us would have seen a display of better cricketing capability than the one against Australia in the semifinal this time. The Indian cricket team boasts of Mithali Raj, the leading run getter among women players. We also have the leading wicket taker in Jhulan Goswami. They represented India in the 2005 final also. These heroes had gone to the tournament without any fuss. There have been some remarkable discoveries. The role played by Harmanpreet Kaur in the semifinal has few parallels. Deepti Sharma has been another find. Indian women’s cricket is in good hands and this loss in the final has to be the turning point for us.
Our approach to the game and the preparations have to be long term. It should be based on scientific assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. We need to draw up a plan of action and choose the most promising players and train them for playing under pressure and in front of unfavorable crowds. We have the best of talent. We have the facilities to nurture the talent. But, we sometimes do not act professionally and allow prejudices to prevail. The trainers, trainees, administrators and support staff have to work in harmony and with commitment. In preparation for participating in a world class sporting event, we have much to learn from the way the Russian gymnastic team prepares. It is a focused activity, which does not permit any scope for diversion or distraction.
The institutions responsible for cricket have to be administered by persons who have only the good of cricket and cricketers in mind. Their dedication to the game has to be total. A closer look at the manner in which these institutions have been run, has found them to be wanting in their commitment. We tend to believe that only a selected few of us are capable of running certain institutions and hence deserve unlimited tenure. But, that is exactly the reason why institutions worldwide have fixed tenures for the people running them. Even the US president is permitted only two tenures of four years each. Good corporate governance stipulates that even part-time directors on boards vacate their positions after a certain period. Sporting institutions also should have such norms.
We hope the path to such good administration will be set out in cricket, so that our women cricketers win greater laurels in the future.
Former comptroller and auditor general, Rai is head of the Supreme Court-appointed BCCI’s Committee of Administrators.