HYDERABAD: There will be as many as four players — Mithali Raj (vice-captain), Gouhar Sultana, Diana David and Mamta Kanojia — from the city when the Indian women’s cricket team will fly to the West Indies next week to play in five Twenty20 and three one-day internationals. “It is a big boost to women’s cricket in the city,’’ said Abdul Bari Wahab, coach of the Hyderabad women’s team which had for the first time made history by coming runners-up in the national championship. The city team toppled the formidable Railways on their way to the maiden final. Their performance is a study in contrast to the men’s Indian team where only two players — VVS Laxman and Pragyan Ojha — are in the Test team while there is no representation from the city in the ODI or Twenty20 teams. If one remembers when Ajit Wadekar-led India team toured the Caribbean in 1971, there were as many as five players, including ML Jaisimha, P Krishnamurthy, Syed Abid Ali, K Jayanthilal and D Govindraj. In the subsequent tour to England, Abbas Ali Baig replaced Jaisimha. That was the only time when there were so many players from Hyderabad in the national team. After that, there were not more than two even when Mohammad Azharuddin was the captain of the side.
Hyderabad cricketers have struggled even to get into the South Zone team, thanks to some listless show. However, amidst the gloomy scenario, there is good news on the women’s cricket front. They have also been South Zone champions in one-day tournament for the last three years.
The merger of the AP Women’s Cricket Association with the HCA gave a big boost to them. The merger opened the doors for women’s cricketers to showcase their talent. They got better facilities and an opportunity to play at the Gymkhana or Uppal Stadium. “It was one of the best things to have happened to women’s cricket. It breathed new life into the cricketers,’’ said Vidya Yadav, who manages the women’s cricket in the city.
Of the four, 29-year-old Mithali Raj represents Railways while Sultana, Daina David and Kanojia play for Hyderabad. In fact, Archana Das, who is also in the Indian team, represented Hyderabad a few years ago before moving over to Bengal. All-rounder Shalini and Nooshin-al-Khadeer (SCR) were also in the Indian camp but missed the bus.
Former Test left-arm spinner SL Venkatapathy Raju is all praise for the hard work put in by the women cricketers. “They are very focussed. They are disciplined. They train very hard at gym and practice for hours at the nets. These bunch of players have shown the hunger to perform,’’ said Raju.
Mithali Raj is a solid and stylish middle-order batswomen. She made history when she scored 214 against England in England. Mithali has been representing India since 1999 and is the highest run-getter for the country (4076 fruns from 129 matches). Diana David is a hard-hitting batter and an off-spinner. The 26-year-old had to work hard to make a comeback into the Indian team after making her debut in 2004. She has been a consistent performer both in ODIs and T20s.
Gouhar Sultana is a classic left-arm spinner. The 23-year-old spinner could have walked into the Indian team. She has taken 42 wickets from 32 matches in ODIs and 17 wickets in T20s.
For Mamta Kanojia, it has been a reward for hard work and determination. Having played for India in 2003, this Hyderabadi girl worked her way back into the national team with solid performances with the bat. “She could be a role model,’’ said Wahab.