The news of the Indian women’s cricket team qualifying for the 2021 World Cup comes at what is arguably the peak so far in the surge in popularity of women’s cricket in India.
The announcement comes after the cancellation of India’s ODI championship match against Pakistan. The ICC Women’s Technical Committee announced that the teams will split the points for all the three series that didn’t take place. The Women’s World Cup is scheduled to be held in New Zealand in 2021, from February 6th to March 7th.
Women and sports in India
Indian women and sports have had a longstanding relationship that has been turbulent, toxic, and mostly one-sided.
With no shortage in formidable skills and talent, sportswomen in India have given in abundance to Indian sports, and received very little back.
Women aren’t just not encouraged, but are blatantly discouraged, from a serious engagement in sports from a very young age. Even today, options for women’s professional sports in India are dishearteningly limited and poorly funded.
In recent years, Indian sports-women have been excelling in their fields – be it Manasi Joshi, Sania Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu’s incredible badminton performances, Dutee Chand and Hima Das sprinting their way to the top in athletics, or the Phogat sisters smashing it in wrestling.
While their names may be widely recognised today, they still aren’t household names that inspire the blind devotion that their male counterparts’ do.
Surge in popularity of women’s cricket
The recent popularity of women’s cricket cannot be accredited as much to any particular improvement in performance by the team, but more to a metamorphosis in the audience’s perception of women’s cricket itself.
Women generally rise to positions of adulation only when they either conform to patriarchal notions of womanhood or adopt masculine traits themselves. Neither seems to be the case here.
Women seem to have realised that they don’t need to leave their gender behind in order to succeed. Female leaders all over the world have been hailed for their incredible leadership during the fight against coronavirus. They’ve flourished without feeling the need to assume stereotypically masculine leadership styles.
Sportswomen too seem to have rejected the need to be aggressively masculine in order to not only be competent, but also watchable. The force behind their growing acclaim among Indian audiences seems to be as simple as increased exposure.
With men’s cricket as well, the ardent fanaticism and cricket becoming akin to religion, began only once Doordarshan telecasted the 1983 World Cup Finals. Women’s cricket matches began to be televised only in 2017, leading to an exponential increase in visibility and exposure.
With women’s cricket matches now being regularly televised, Hotstar live-streaming these matches, increased brand endorsements, and social media exposure, a spotlight has been shone on the Indian women’s cricket team.
This, coupled with gripping matches and spectacular performances, has caught the public’s imagination and ensured a rise in their popularity.
Bringing this realisation home
It’s clear that women don’t need to better themselves in order to make the grade, not only in sports but every area of life. Most of them already possess the abilities, talent, and skill set to thrive in their fields.
They remain largely hidden however, due to a lack of opportunities, representation, and simply not being given the space to prove themselves. Women hold in them deep capacities for wonderful things – all they need is for people to take notice.
So go ahead and shine a spotlight on all the extraordinary women in your life – it could be the very push they need to achieve their version of qualifying for the World Cup.