The Indian Women’s Cricket team were stipulated to take on England in the semi-final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup at the SCG but the weather had other ideas. The incessant rain did not allow a single ball to be bowled and the game had to be called off – India were through to the semi-final on account of a better showing in the group stages.
This decision of the ICC, to not have a reserve day in case of poor weather and allow the automatic qualification of a side into the finals, was met with varied reactions. Some called it extremely irresponsible and not something expected from the highest governing body in the sport.
On the same day, South Africa Women met Australia in the second semi-final. In another rain-affected game, the hosts managed to beat South Africa by 5 runs to set-up a match with India in the final. After the game, South Africa skipper Dane van Niekerk admitted that a loss was better than ‘getting a free pass for the final.’
“I have to give credit to the ground staff; they did absolutely everything to keep us on the park. And we are here to play cricket. I’d rather lose than get a free pass into the World Cup final.”
Van Niekerk’s statements, obviously hinting at India’s qualification scenario was met with severe criticism on social media. Twitteratis made it clear that India deservedly went through to the final because they simply played the better cricket throughout the tournament.
Commentator Harsha Bhogle also clarified on the point in a tweet. “Except that it isn’t your choice (direct qualification) to play or get a free pass! And it isn’t really a free pass but a qualification for playing well in the group stage.”
Except that it isn’t your choice whether to play or get a free pass! And it isn’t really a free pass but a qualification for playing well in the group stage. https://t.co/VSA9n61wJd
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) March 5, 2020
The reaction from all quarters was pretty surprising and aside from the obvious implications associate with Van Niekerk’s remarks, was pretty uplifting to see – simply because it finally seemed that people were taking note of the Indian Women’s Cricket Team. Also because, such a backlash and widespread reaction on social media had earlier been reserved for the men’s team. For too long, Team India has only meant the Men in Blue. Women’s cricket was often pushed to the footnotes in the book of cricket. Cricket felt exclusive, restricted to just the men.
This T20 World Cup in Australia, Harmanpreet Kaur and Co. were out to change that popular narrative. India has arguably been the best team in the world over the last few weeks and are heading into the final as the only undefeated side in the tournament so far. This is their maiden appearance in a T20 World Cup final and they are now one game at Melbourne away from scripting history.
The performance of the Indian side has drawn several heads. So incessant has been the fervour, that Australian grounds have often felt like home crowds with the Bharat Army constantly singing and chanting and roaring in support of the Indian players. Social media has also been rife with clips and videos of this lovely group of players – Jemimah dancing and vibing along with mascots and security guards went viral and made everyone smile from ear-to-ear.
In India, there is equal excitement and buzz and equal amount of nervousness heading into tomorrow. Can the Women in Blue fulfil the World Cup dream? Can they bring the big prize home?
Harmanpreet’s troops are 40 overs of cricket away from scripting history. They’re one step away from pulling off an ’83 where cricket went from being an afterthought to a religion in the country.
While standing at the edge of a new chapter for the future of cricket in the country, there’s just one thing that’s sure: the Indian Women’s Cricket Team has already won.