Perhaps it may not be incorrect to suggest that what matters most in Cricket aren’t just records. The obsession with stat and number crunching is true and just. But there’s something else that’s of equal importance, if not any less than records.
Ever wondered what that is? Dates.
Had there not been special occasions or momentous dates, we’d all have lost relevance of the sport and what it brought along in all these decades.
For instance, who can forget June 25, 1983, the date when India won its maiden ODI World cup? Likewise, we’ll never forget September 13 when Shane Warne arrived on the planet to spin a web of wondrous talent on the sport. In similar vein, it’ll be hard to forget November 15, 2013 when the great Sachin Tendulkar played his last ever Test and bid adieu to the sport he made richer with his magnificent achievements.
Likewise, there’s great significance about November 19, 2021- when AB de Villiers finally hung his boots and made the bowlers of the world breathe a sigh of relief.
But is that all?
Quite frankly, there’s another date that fans may not forget. And while it may not mean all that much to those for whom the sport begins and ends with the exploits of the men’s game, it holds tremendous meaning for fans who can be actually called so.
23 July, 2017.
Those for whom women’s participation in the sport is sacrosanct to the spirit of Cricket focused on the contest between England and India women’s.
The venue was Lord’s and the date spelt misery to some whilst fetching ecstasy to the others.
Nearly five years have passed since Anya Shrubsole bowled a peach of a delivery to dismiss Rajeshwari Gayakwad. There was Poonam Yadav at the other end. But all she could do was just watch as Gayakwad’s brittle defenses were breached and England lifted yet another spectacular ODI World Cup trophy. With England all cheery, India were in disarray.
In this period, those absolute scenes at the spiritual home of Cricket have only come to pinch the intrepid Indian cricket fan, a backer of the women’s game.
And for the longest time has this fan awaited another occasion for his beloved side to set the record straight with England.
Quite frankly, India women’s side does have a record to set straight with England. You realise that when you recollect it was to England that they conceded another defeat back in the 2013 Women’s World Cup, back then losing on Indian soil.
So as the India women’s team gears up to face England in the next few hours, it could be said, what has been a rather one-sided rivalry in ODI context, is bound to get charged with oodles of excitement. Much of it, make no mistake, belongs to the fact that it is England who are facing the heat and the ignominy of back to back defeats in the 2022 World cup.
Strike the iron when it’s hot they say and going by the recent devastating form India women’s eminent batters are in, it looks likely- unless proven otherwise- that India are going to smash the iron into smithereens.
While on the one hand, Smriti Mandhana, 358 away from 3,000 ODI runs, has already collected 181 runs from three games, Harmanpreet Kaur, 151 away from 3,000 ODI runs, is cruising along in this preeminent series, having struck 185 runs already.
What should excite one of world cricket’s formidable duo is the fact that neither Kate Cross nor Katherine Brunt, two extremely skilled exponents of pace bowling, are in smashing form. What shouldn’t, however, is that in someone like Sophie Ecclestone, four wickets from three games, including a best of 3/20 (vs Windies), there’s a giant turner of the ball.
Though only 22, but mature beyond her years, Ecclestone will turn it sharply and hope to spin a web of deceit with which to trick the famed India women’s batters. Should she get ample support from someone like inspirational captain Heather Knight to explore some sweet spots, England will feel they have a chance.
And that could turn ever more likely should Mithali Raj, a proven legend of the game sitting with 7,668 runs, fall quickly again. In these past three contests, she’s managed all of 45 runs.
There’s underwhelming. Then there’s extremely underwhelming. Somewhere in the muddle one finds Raj scampering along. Can that change? Can the captain take charge tomorrow much like an under-pressure Stafanie Taylor, who turned it around with the bat against the Australians scoring fighting fifty.
It’ll be kudos to England should they succeed in keeping the giant quiet, but it’ll be a captivating sight to spot the big three of India women’s cricket, including Harmanpreet, Mithali and Smriti score valuable runs.
What India will need at the Bay Oval will be Jhulan Goswami and the ever dependable Rajeshwari Gayakwad in the wicket’s column. All that experience and touch of class about the right arm medium pacer that has heralded her into a league of her own will have to come in handy for India. Likewise for Gayakwad and Vastrakar who’ll be aware of the threat that two of the game’s finest batters in Tammy Beaumont and Danielle Wyatt impose.
On her part, Beaumont, with scores of 74, 46, and 62 against her name, will like to continue her silvery touch. Should she get into the eighties and convert a fifty into a big one, it’ll rain pure gold for England, besides upping the confidence of those who follow. There’s a stoicism about her that’s simply unmissable.
But having said that, Wyatt, who’s had a very quiet tournament so far, will absolutely like to explode having only registered a best score of 33 so far.
From India women’s perspective, getting into the middle order early and finding a way to beat Knight and Sciver will be the imperative should the side desire chasing a modest total. Sciver, make no mistake, has already thudded a fine century. Will there be any mercy for the bowlers tomorrow? One reckons, the likes of Sneh Rana, a proven game changer with her spinners, will have to chip in so that one doesn’t overly rely on the duo of Goswami and Gayakwad.
But whatever it is, should India desire a win, which will be mega for their hopes to secure a berth in the final four, the Raj-led side will have to devise a Plan B.
Who does the bulwark of the scoring should the big three go silent?
Revenge is an ugly word, but for some, it’s the only opportunity to salvage lost pride. Perhaps the Indian women’s side will agree. But make no mistake- England will not go down easily, and may just not in the end.
It’s all to play for.