India are currently ranked fourth in the ICC women’s ODI rankings and third in the T20I rankings.
There is no doubt that a lot has changed in just the last decade or so.
Former India cricketer Snehal Pradhan, who played 6 ODIs and 4 T20Is for India from 2008 to 2011 and is currently on the commentary panel for the Ashes for the broadcast in India, was a guest on Times of India’s sports podcast Sportscast recently and spoke about how much things have changed from her playing days to now.
(Photo Source: Twitter)
“Let me give you an example that, the last series that I played in 2011, I hardly have any footage from that series because I think there was only one match which was televised and there also we had to take our pen drives to the video analyst to make sure that we got some footage of our play and suddenly here we are where we were watching 8 girls playing in the WBBL and they absolutely lit the tournament on fire. Harmanpreet Kaur was the player of the tournament. Whatever WC action is coming up soon that will also be widely available. So, so much has changed, especially because of the 2017 WC and the credit really must go to the girls because unless they put on performances that capture attention – then the audience suddenly wakes up and says – oh there is an amazing product called women’s cricket that’s worth watching. And time and again they have put in those kinds of performances, which we have seen over the last few years. So full credit to them, full credit to the fact that the ecosystem is changing and that has really helped the visibility of womens cricket – that has been the biggest evolution.” Snehal said on TOI Sportscast.
Like Snehal said, the last edition of the women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) saw as many as 8 Indian players participate and represent different franchises. The likes of Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh, Shafali Verma, Radha Yadav, Poonam Yadav and Jemimah Rodrigues showed that the world is taking note of Indian womens cricket talent. Franchises in Australia and in other countries are eager to sign Indian players, where they get the chance to rub shoulders with the best in the world. It’s what the IPL does for the men.
Harmanpreet Kaur, who returned to the WBBL after a two year gap, having played for the Sydney Thunder franchise earlier, was the player of the tournament of the 2021 edition of the WBBL, scoring 399 runs in 11 innings and taking 15 wickets for the Melbourne Renegades. She also hit the maximum number of sixes in the tournament – 18.
One of the big turning points for Indian womens cricket of course was the 2017 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, where India Women finished as runners-up, losing to England Women in the final, by just 9 runs.
(Photo Source: Twitter)
So what are the different ways in which the scouts and talent spotters zero in on the Indian players they would like to target for the various franchises?
“There are two things – one is that they will be following world cricket – they will be watching the scores as far as possible. I think now we are in an age where every match that India women play is covered, is televised, is broadcast, if not on TV then on the internet via live streaming so the visibility has definitely improved. There is also the players involved in matches and how much of an impression they make against each other. For example, you talk about Harmanpreet Kaur and the fact that she played for Sydney Thunder in WBBL (first WBBL contract – 2016-17 to 2018-19) is because he had made a very strong impression on some of the Australian players who played for Sydney Thunder. So they will go back to their coaches and say – you know what, I think this player can really make a difference. For example take Chamari Atapattu from Sri Lanka who really enjoys batting against Australia and whenever she comes up against Australia she puts in her best performance and that is something which gets her WBBL contracts more than anything else, so putting in good performances against the likes of Australia or England and then those players going to their franchises and calling up their coach and saying – you know what I think this player can really fit in our line up. That’s the best way these players move around.” Snehal further said on TOI Sportscast.
(Photo Source: Twitter)
Snehal also talked about the confidence that young cricketers these days exude. Shafali Verma was compared to someone like Virender Sehwag, thanks to her attacking style of play. But the 17 year old, in an interview to the Times of India earlier this year, had said that though such comparisons give her a lot of confidence, she would like to be known by her own name and not be someone else’s clone. She would want to learn from the legends but not copy them.
“This is an awareness that’s created in the environment they are walking into. Shafali made her debut at 15, now she is 17, so she has spent a couple of years in the Indian team. Where is she learning from? She is learning from someone like Mithali Raj. In the 2017 World Cup when Mithali Raj was asked – who is your favourite mens cricketer she asked – will you ask that question to the men? And that’s the kind of learning that the Shafalia Vermas are getting, by spending time in the dressing room with these people. Because they are seeing the older players and the players who have been around longer set that standard – that we want our own identity. That we want to be known as who we are rather than being compared to someone else, even if that comparison is great you know, even if you compare her to Mithali Raj, who is a woman cricketer and not a male cricketer and it’s a great comparison, still the younger generation will want to have their own identities. And we see this in mens cricket partly because of so many matches that they play, they come through the rigors of something like an IPL before they get to the national team. And with the women also the exposure they are getting in the tournaments like the WBBL is really also going to shape them as people a lot faster.”
Listen to the full Sportscast episode with Snehal Pradhan here.