India finally won its first women’s cricket global championship on January 29, 2023, when Shafali Verma’s team defeated England in Potchefstroom’s inaugural ICC U19 Women’s T20 World Cup final by a margin of seven wickets.
Prior to their historic victory at Potchefstroom, India had placed second in the finals of three World Cups – twice in the ODI World Cup finals in 2005 and 2017 and once in the T20 World Cup final – in addition to taking home a silver medal in the 2022 Commonwealth Games gold-medal match.
The India U19 Women’s team’s victory on Sunday in Potchefstroom felt like the end of a protracted curse. Shubhangi Kulkarni, a former captain of India, believes that the U19 women’s team’s success will be the first of many future victories for her nation.
“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 added.
In the meantime, former India captain Mamatha Maben praised the preparation work done by the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which culminated in the U19 Women’s T20 World Cup championship.
“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.”
The BCCI has held a number of zonal camps over the past nine months, along with competitions like the U19 T20 Trophy and U19 Challenger Trophy, fielded two U19 teams in a quadrangular series against West Indies and Sri Lanka in Visakhapatnam, and bilateral matches against New Zealand in Mumbai and South Africa ahead of the World Cup.
“The U19 team began preparing for this important competition last year. They have participated in camps at the NCA, played numerous matches, and put in a lot of practise time. They received good facilities from the BCCI, which also oversees juvenile cricket in India. Because they were well-prepared, our team outperformed the competition by a wide margin.,” added Shubhangi.
Considering the future, Shubhangi, who represented India in 19 Tests and 27 ODIs between 1976 and 1991, thinks the U19 World Cup victory will encourage many young females in the nation to take up the sport, referencing the 1983 Men’s ODI World Cup success.
“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 victory also highlighted India’s outstanding talent and the potential for them to rule cricket for the next ten years, particularly with the debut of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) just around the corner.
The winning U19 team’s bravery and ability to remain composed under pressure, according to Shubhangi, who presently represents the Indian Cricketers’ Association (ICA) on the BCCI’s top council, will serve them well as they 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 represented India in 40 ODIs and four Test matches between 1993 and 2004, also praised head coach Nooshin Al Khadeer. “Nooshin’s leadership of India to its first World Cup is a significant advancement for female coaches. Many thanks for your kind words.”
When asked if Nooshin, one of the most successful coaches in domestic cricket, may be a strong candidate for the position of head coach of the senior women’s team, Shubhangi responded in the affirmative and added that a coach’s gender is unimportant.
“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 concluded by listing the U19 World Cup winning team members who had an impression on her. “Titas Sadhu and Parshavi Chopra are two of the bowlers. For batters, the back end should feature Shweta Sherawat, Gongadi Trisha, and Soumya Tiwari.
Overall, the future of the game in India is highly promising.”