The other Bleed Blue army

For a very long time there has been much hullabaloo about women’s empowerment, how women should be treated equally at home, work and society at large with men, about feminism and everything against mansplaining.

Therefore, not surprisingly, when Mithali Raj – the captain of Indian Women’s cricket team – was recently asked who her favourite male cricketer was, she chided, “‘Do you ask a male cricketer who their favourite female player is”?

(Raj breaks world record for most runs scored by a woman cricketer in ODI at Australia at the County Ground, Bristol)

While the question itself may sound benign, one cannot not notice a shot the journalist tried to take at overshadowing an event that warrants exclusive focus on the progress women athletes have made in the sport by reminding all of the actual “stars” of the game. Titans whom women cricketers should look up to even when speculations of their own team to make it to the finals were rife.

To be honest, in the shadow of the ferver the Bleed Blue army generates, the Indian Women Cricket Team struggles to gain attention.

And if it hasn’t gained your attention yet, you are seriously missing out on some solid adrenaline pumping sporting action! At this very moment, the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup has reached its second semi final match with India pitted against Australia, and this is why you should have been at the edge of your seats throughout the tournament:

In a dramatic start to the series, India had surprised the hosts, England, by beating them by 35 runs in their opening encounter at Derby. Most people hadn’t expected India to trump their English counterparts, especially with a weak bowling attack. However, a combination of superb batting, bowling and fielding helped India to a victory over the favourites.

Smriti Mandhana’s 90-run innings off just 77 deliveries was the highlight of the match. However, it was their fielding which stole the show on that day. The Indian fielders affected as many as four run-outs in that match to turn the course of the game in their favour.

Subsequently, India’s resounding wins against Sri Lanka, England, and West Indies, mostly confirmed a Semis berth but the unknowing audience missed out on a match which should have kept spectators celebration-ready with firecrackers – an astounding India-Pakistan match. Ekta Bisht’s 5/18 against Pakistan helped India to successfully defend a meagre total of 169 runs. India eventually bowled Pakistan out for a mere 74 runs. It had also become the best bowling figures by an Indian in World Cup history.

(India wins match against Pakistan)

But the Indian cricketers keep getting better – Rajeshwari Gayakwad replaced Bisht in India’s virtual quarter-final against the Kiwis and bettered her record. She went on to claim superb bowling figures of 5/15 which restricted the Kiwis to a mere 79 runs.

On the concluding day of the League Stages, the Indian fans were in for a treat! India trumped the Kiwis by 186 runs. Batting first, India had put up a total of 265/7 on the board riding on Mithali Raj’s 109, Harmanpreet Kaur’s 60 and Krishnamurthy’s blitzkrieg of 70. Then, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, playing her first match of the tournament, claimed figures of 5/15 and thus bowled the Kiwis out for a mere 79 runs.

(India qualified for the World Cup semis for the first time since 2010)

As for Mithali Raj, she was trending a while back, for reading Rumi, just before walking out to bat which is a sight to behold, as you may never see it in Slam Bam Men Counterparts.

While there will always be a debate surrounding the women’s cricket appeal, it surely is taking strides in the right direction with a new group of women cricketers breaking stereotypes surrounding the game. Strangely there has been no talks of women T-20 league, in the sidelines of IPL, which qualifies to be launched in the near future.

Coming back to the journalist’s question to Mithali Raj about her favourite male cricketer, and her witty counter question which made headlines – the answer to Raj’s enquiry is easily found in the world’s most prominent male cricketer, Virat Kohli’s, error  while congratulating Mithali Raj for her record 6000 runs (the most by any woman ever in ODI) with a picture of another rising star, Poonam Raut.

-with contributions from Ankit Doshi

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