The beauty of sport is that it can make you weep both in victory and defeat, and Sunday was that day when those tears flowed in joy. The India U19 women’s team completed a surreal T20 World Cup journey with their hands wrapped tightly around the winners’ trophy. Captain Shafali Verma’s tears after beating England in the final reflected the enormity of the achievement. A motley bunch of cricketers from different parts of the country and various societal backgrounds, they have their own stories of resilience, determination and defiance to narrate. Pacer Titas Sadhu is from Bengal, Soumya Tiwari is from Bhopal, G Trisha is from Hyderabad, and Archana Devi is from an Unnao village in Uttar Pradesh. Shafali, one of the youngest players to play T20 internationals for India, is from Rohtak. This is a healthy reflection of the growth of the sport too.
The triumph of the U19 team augurs well for the future too. It shows India has bench strength capable enough to fill the void when senior players retire. This is good news for the newly launched Women’s Premier League too. The pool will be bigger, and WPL will give opportunities to those cricketers to pursue their dream in top-flight cricket. The victory couldn’t have come at a better time. The T20 Women’s World Cup begins in South Africa on February 10 and India is considered one of the favourites. There is no greater publicity for sport than winning. The rise of women’s cricket is a testament to that very notion that revolves around sport and achievement.
The senior women have been beating teams they were struggling against earlier. They reached the final of the senior women’s T20 World Cup in 2020 and won silver in the Commonwealth Games last year. Along came the riches too. Last week, the WPL teams were sold to five franchises for Rs 4,669.99 crore. This is besides the Rs 951 crore the Indian cricket board (BCCI) got from Viacom for broadcasting and digital rights. That is Rs 7.09 crore per match. Adani Group made the highest bid in the team auction to secure the Ahmedabad team for Rs 1,289 crore. The players’ auction is yet to take place. With this victory, expect bigger bids for the bunch of teenage cricketers who were, until yesterday, unknown to the world. Would women’s cricket soon start generating enough revenue to not depend on men’s cricket anymore?