Having been a huge cricket fan for nearly a decade, one of the greatest joys I’ve had of late in the game has been seeing the enormous success of the recent Women’s World Cup held here in England. Being a fan of team India, I as well as probably most Indian cricket lovers around the globe, are so proud to see our team go the unexpected heights that they did, nearly winning the tournament before losing it to the eventual outstanding hosts. What this World Cup also made me realise was how many amazing players, some even legends that have gone unappreciated. The India women’s captain, Mithali Raj has forever made an identity for herself with her graceful batting and courageous captaincy. Some cricket pundits have seen her as perhaps the female version of Sachin Tendulkar (the cricketing god of India). But the more fairer way to view her is that she is Mithali Raj; no one else and that is why we love what she has done. Bowlers like Jhulan Goswami (India) and Anya Shrubsole (England) as well as the kind of innings that Chamari Atapattu (Sri Lanka) and Harmanpreet Kaur (India) set cricket alight this summer. Harmanpreet Kaur’s innings is easily the best I’ve ever seen given how she seemed to hit sixes for fun against a very strong Australia. Being an Indian, I am honoured to have seen “Harman” the hero. She is also an inspiration and an idol. What stood out though was the passion; on 98 attempting two runs to get a century, she yelled out in anger and frustration at her partner, Deepti Sharma for not running immediately. While the scene was ugly the message was clear: she was so eager to win. That’s why we will forever admire her. This tournament was a huge success which is what made me wonder: if the passion and temperament of Women’s teams are the same, why isn’t there room in cricket and maybe even all team sports, room for a combined men and women’s team?
I know the most obvious con of the idea of combined teams is the difference in the standard; particularly in the bowling where male fast bowlers can deliver at speeds as fast as 160kph as opposed to the women’s fast bowlers whose speeds are about 40kph less than that. Having male fast bowlers bowling at female batsmen could bring about a lot of injuries and pain. So why get all the superstars of men’s cricket but introduce new faces instead? The fact is that women’s cricket has been a huge success especially over the last few months and seeing the way fans have responded to their success shows that women cricketers are becoming huge inspirations and sporting figures.
Now I’m not saying that this has to be permanent. The schedule of fixtures for cricketers at the moment is as busy as it has ever been. But I wonder if this could add another dimension to cricket; something that gives the sport more meaning. There are so many discussions and ideas to develop cricket: 4 day test cricket, Test Championships, new t20 leagues, a women’s IPL. If it is given a chance, perhaps fans will enjoy the revolutionary women cricketers playing alongside a pool of young boys looking to learn from their heroes. The reception that combined teams would receive remains unknown but surely the ICC (International Cricket Council) can just start contemplating the phenomenon. Why not give it a try?