CHENNAI: A hundred wides in a total of 327, seven ducks in a combined effort of 47 boosted by 33 extras, and an innings lasting 12.2 overs — these are some of the numbers coming out of a competition held under the BCCI banner.
It’s the inaugural women’s U-19 event for six teams from the Northeast — Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal and Sikkim — and one from Bihar, being played in Dhanbad. None had experience of playing at any level, although for geographical reasons, Bihar girls are closer to the game.
Unsurprisingly, the first two days have produced figures not associated with official cricket. Manipur conceded 94 wides against Nagaland before touching three figures against Bihar on Friday; Meghalaya players made 11 in a total of 37 aided by 26 extras.
What’s the point of having a tournament for teams that are not ready? Is it bad advertisement for women’s cricket, which is expecting better days following the Indian team’s second-place finish in the World Cup? There is another way of looking at it, which says that this is just a start. Like teams from other parts, the Northeast girls too will take time to be ready for competitive cricket.
“It should be taken into account that almost all players in the U-19 girls’ teams from the Northeast are beginners. They make do with minimal infrastructure and funding. Players from other states too struggled when they started.
Let’s look at it as a beginning instead of saying that players from these states are not good enough,” said Naba Bhattacharya, secretary of Meghalaya Cricket Association, who as part of a BCCI committee to look after cricket in the Northeast has been vocal about the inclusion of these teams in board tournaments. These seven states will also play in men’s U-23, boys’ U-19, U-16 and senior women’s events.
Lack of grounds, long monsoon and funds are some problems for the six new teams who are awaiting full BCCI membership following the Supreme Court’s reform orders. Shillong, for example, has one ground for nearly 300 matches a year. As associate members, these states used to get an annual grant of Rs 50 lakh from the BCCI, between 2008 to 2013.
So although unusual, it wasn’t a wonder to see bowlers of the Meghalaya women’s U-19 team just about getting the ball to reach the other end, a week before the tournament.
“They play other sports and were trained in cricket only for a few months. Our boys teams are better,” said Peter Lamare, the region’s only NIS-certified cricket coach. CoA member and former women’s captain Diana Edulji wasn’t available for comment.
That they need time is a valid argument, considering that teams like Tamil Nadu and Assam got out for two-digit totals on Friday, in zonal matches of the women’s U-19 tournament. But questions will be asked as long as wides keep emerging as the highest scorer.