Women’s IPL arrives with a bang!

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) pulled off a major feat last month. It successfully organised the first edition of Women’s IPL in which five teams took part, namely, ­Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Lucknow and Gujarat. The women played perfectly acceptable cricket and I must say I enjoyed the matches as much as any men’s cricket match. Of course, the women don’t hit the ball as hard as the men do or bowl as fast. They lack the kind of upper body strength that men have. But in every other respect they were just as good. That’s been obvious for a couple of decades now but it’s well worth repeating.

All in all, it was a wonderful showing and I am so glad this tournament will now go on for a long time. In fact, as more teams are formed and join the tournament, it is likely to be more sustainable if it continues to be played in March rather than in the summer like the men’s IPL, which starts at the end of March and goes on till mid-May. By then it’s very hot and players find playing in 40 degrees Celsius very taxing. They need a lot of rest between matches. If you add humidity of the sort we have in the coastal cities, it can be extremely exhausting. Fortunately the world cricket calendar is such that spring is now the only time available for the Women’s IPL. Nothing could be better.

In India women played their first official match in 1976. For a very long time, they were seen as a sideshow, more to be tolerated with amusement than encouraged with proper resources.

Women have been playing cricket for a long time. In Australia they started more than 100 years ago. In India they played their first official match in 1976. For a very long time after that they were seen as a sideshow, more to be tolerated with amusement than encouraged with proper resources. And, at the risk of sounding rude, I must say the earlier generations of female cricketers were not very good. But now all that has changed. The women have caught up. Those who play the game these days are every bit as good as the men. The Women’s IPL just proved that. Indeed, the level at which the women play now is the level at which the men played until the 1970s. Today most college men’s teams would lose to the national women’s teams.

With time, the women will develop what are known as cricket smarts even more. They do have them now but not quite in the same measure as men. ‘Cricket smarts’ is the term used for the ability some players have to play tactically depending on the state of play. It’s largely intuitive but match experience plays a huge role in it. The player knows exactly what needs to be done at any point in time. M S Dhoni had it by the bucketful as do players like Ravindra Jadeja. Cricket is a game of chance and just a few millimetres and slight change in angles can make the difference to the outcome. Cricket smarties know how to exploit this.

What I find strange is that it took cricket so long to do the right thing. Tennis, badminton, golf, swimming, gymnastics and a host of other sports included in the Olympics have given the space that women need. But cricket has been a laggard. It has begun giving women the space they need only in the last two decades. The loss has been entirely of the game and its fans. What a pity. But that neglect is a thing of the past now, as the recently concluded ­Women’s ICC World Cup and the Women’s IPL have shown. The women played superb cricket. What more can one want?

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