On January 29, 2023, India’s agonising wait for a maiden world title in women’s cricket came to an end when the Shafali Verma-led side defeated England by seven wickets in the final of the inaugural ICC U19 Women’s T20 World Cup in Potchefstroom.
Before the historic triumph at Potchefstroom, India had finished runners-up in the finals of three World Cups finals — twice in 2005 and 2017 ODI World Cups while once in the 2020 T20 World Cup, apart from ending up with a silver medal in the 2022 Commonwealth Games gold-medal final.
Sunday’s victory at Potchefstroom by the India U19 Women’s team truly felt like the end of a long-standing jinx. Former India captain Shubhangi Kulkarni feels the victory by the U19 women’s team will be the start of more titles to come for the country in future.
“It’s fantastic for women’s cricket in India. Winning a World Cup is something which all of us have been dreaming of for a long time. I am very happy that the U19 have been able to do it. Hope this is one of many more to come,” she told IANS.
Meanwhile, former India skipper Mamatha Maben, while talking to IANS, appreciated the planning done by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the National Cricket Academy (NCA) culminating in the U19 Women’s T20 World Cup trophy.
“It’s definitely a momentous occasion in the history of women’s cricket in India. A lot of meticulous planning has gone into the preparation for this World Cup by NCA & BCCI. To see it come to fruition is hugely satisfying.”
In the last nine months, the BCCI had organised several zonal camps as well as matches like U19 T20 Trophy, U19 Challenger Trophy, fielding two U19 teams in a quadrangular series featuring Sri Lanka and West Indies in Visakhapatnam as well as bilaterals against New Zealand in Mumbai and in South Africa ahead of the World Cup.
“The U19 team started their preparation for this major event last year. They have been attending camps at the NCA, playing a lot of matches and practiced hard. The BCCI provided them with good facilities and has a good structure for junior cricket in India. Our team was much better than the others because they were well prepared,” pointed out Shubhangi.
Looking ahead, Shubhangi, who played 19 Tests and 27 ODIs for India from 1976-1991, believes the U19 World Cup triumph will inspire young girls in the country to take up the sport in large numbers, citing the 1983 Men’s ODI World Cup victory.
“Parents haven’t always encouraged girls to play cricket. Now I am sure girls will be encouraged to take up the sport and seeing the rewards given by the BCCI they will be further motivated. The U19 players have become popular and will be role models for younger girls who will want to take up the sport.”
“It has obviously attracted a lot of attention and this is what is required for any sport to take off. In 1983 when the Indian men’s team won the World Cup, it suddenly gave a big boost to the men’s game. Similarly, I am quite sure this U19 win will give a boost to women’s cricket.”
The U19 World Cup triumph also showed the exciting talent India has and how they could potentially dominate the cricketing world in the next decade, especially with the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) on the horizon.
Shubhangi, currently representing the Indian Cricketers’ Association (ICA) on the BCCI apex council, thinks the fearlessness in the victorious U19 team and them not being overwhelmed by big occasions will keep them in good stead while making a transition to senior cricket.
“The players have tasted success and they have seen what they need to do to succeed. It has taken hard work, dedication, sincerity and sacrifice to reach where they have. I am sure they will have aspirations of getting into the senior team and to do well and win the Women’s World Cups (in future).”
“They know they are playing the U19 age group and if they have to play for the senior team they have to work that much harder. The players showed good temperament and were not overawed by the occasion when they played the finals. These qualities will help them transition to senior cricket. They have the potential to make it to the senior team.”
Mamatha, who played four Tests and 40 ODIs for India from 1993 to 2004, was also in praise of head coach Nooshin Al Khadeer. “To have Nooshin lead India to its first World Cup is a big leap forward for women coaches. Many congratulations to her.”
Asked if Nooshin, who has been one of the most successful coaches in domestic cricket, could be a prime candidate for the senior women’s team head coach job, Shubhangi applied in the affirmative, while adding gender of a coach is irrelevant.
“Yes why not. When we reached the finals of the World Cup in 2005, ours was the only team which had a female coach. We’ve had some outstanding performances when we had female coaches and we have female coaches who are good enough to coach the Indian teams.”
“But I don’t think we should appoint someone based on gender. As long as we have a coach who understands the intricacies of women’s cricket and is able to take the team to the next level it should be fine.”
Mamatha signed off by mentioning the players who impressed her from the victorious U19 World Cup campaign. “Among the bowlers, Parshavi Chopra and Titas Sadhu. Among batters, definitely Shweta Sherawat, Gongadi Trisha and Soumya Tiwari towards the back end. All in all, things are looking very bright for the game in India.”