India has been pretty erratic in the Women’s World Cup (WWC). In the first five editions from 1973-93, we didn't participate in two and failed to make any type of impact in the remaining three. We had a bit of a run from 1997-2009, making one final, two semi-finals and bagging one third place.
However it all fell apart in 2013 and we finished last in our group. The only consolation then was that we beat Pakistan for the seventh place payoff. However the Indian women have stormed back into the reckoning in the 2017 edition. This could be well our best chance of winning the WWC for the first time ever.
The women's team entered the tournament in the form of their lives, winning 16 games on the trot from February 2016 to May 2017. We won the 2017 quadrangular quite comfortably beating South Africa by 8 wickets in the final on their home turf.
The Indians began WWC 2017 in style thrashing the defending World Champions England by a good 35 runs. The star of that match was Smriti Mandhana, who hit 90 off 72 and followed up with a 106 off 108 in the very next game. She was player of the match in both games and someone called her the female version of Virender Sehwag.
Viru himself was magnanimous in his praise and tweeted…
"She is the first version of Smriti and is really special. Every Indian who loves sports will be proud of her. Wish her and the team the best"
In the last must-win match with former World Champions New Zealand, we thrashed them by a whopping 186 runs. In that we had a batting blitzkrieg by Veda Krishnamurthy and she belted 70 runs off 45 balls.
Of course captain Mithali Raj was all over the place hitting 356 runs in the tournament so far with an average close to 51. She has already hit one century and three half-centuries in WWC 2017.
During the tournament, she also became the first woman to cross 6000 runs in ODIs.
Mithali became famous on social media for coolly reading her book while waiting for her batting and her calmness seems to have rubbed on the team. She is an old war horse looks good to become the first woman to play 200 ODIs in the future.
The bowling department is in sizzling form too and the best two individual bowling performances are also by Indians. Ekta Bisht had figures of 5-18 in the important game with Pakistan and Rajeshwari Gayakwad bettered that with a 5-15 that totally sunk New Zealand.
We now have a great chance to win WWC 2017. We lost to Australia in the leagues and were also thrashed by them in the 2007 final. However, it’s not exactly a jinx as we beat them in the 2009 third place playoff match. We will have to invoke that spirit in the semis when we face them next.
WWC has had only three champions. We beat England in the opener and kicked New Zealand in our last match. If we can beat Australia in the semis then it will become an awesome hat-trick in WWC 2017 and we’ll gain the confidence to win in the finals. It is only in victory that any team gets more recognition and gives a great fillip to the game.
The 1983 men’s ODI World Cup win transformed Indian cricket forever. The 2007 T20 World Cup win launched us into the T20 age and ushered in the IPL era. After that we won two ICC trophies and entered our most consistent phase in world level tournaments.
A similar transformation is now needed for women's cricket. Who knows what a World Cup win would do. It would lead to greater pride, greater finances and a much greater viewership. Fans would finally start following all international women’s matches with great regularity and not just a World Cup.
It might even lead to the launching of a women’s IPL in 2018, who knows? The time is right!
It's been 44 years since the WWC debuted and here’s hoping that 2017 is the year of the Indian eves, to take women’s cricket to the next level.
Kapil did it in England in 1983 at Lord’s. Can Mithali repeat that feat in England again in 2017 at Lord’s?
If that happens then the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final loss would be totally forgotten, but more importantly women’s cricket in India would enter the big league!