Smells Like Teen, And Female, Spirit: India’s Under-19 World Cup Win Further Bolsters Women’s Cricket

Coming in the midst of the WPL and the Women’s World T20, the accomplishment of Shafali Verma and team has given women’s cricket more cause for joy.

India captain Shafali Verma celebrates with the World Cup on Sunday.

The Indian captain Shafali Verma called herself a “calm bandi (girl)” in an interview before Sunday’s Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup final against England. But out on the field on a sunny day in Potchefstroom, South Africa, Verma and her team were full of fire and chutzpah.

“Bhaag, bhaag, jaldi bhaag!” (Run, run quickly) someone urged a fielder attempting to stop an England boundary.

“Catch it, saamne aaja!” (Catch it, go forward) was the cry as a half-chance rose towards Gongadi Trisha at long-off. Trisha did take it, running in and throwing herself on the ground for a stunning catch that sent back Grace Scrivens, the England captain and the player of the series.

These were just two of the many beseeching calls that rang out through the day as India annihilated their opponents for their first ever women’s World Cup. The exhortations had urgency, which only comes from determination and passion.

Titas Sadhu’s pace and length was too much for England. The 18-year-old from Bengal, often compared with the great Jhulan Goswami, was named the player of the match for her spell of 2/6 from four overs, which was instrumental in restricting the England total to 68.

Archana Devi’s one-handed catch at extra cover that sent back Ryana MacDonald-Gay, off leg-spinner Parshavi Chopra, was another example of India’s commitment in the fielding.

It’s tricky to chase a low target and India did lose early wickets, but then Soumya Tiwari and Trisha steadied India with a stand of 46 for the third wicket. Tiwari then scored the winning runs in front of tricolour-waving fans at the JB Marks Oval.

The victory comes close on the heels of the formation of the Women’s Premier League (WPL), and of big money coming in from the WPL’s broadcast rights (Rs 951 crore) and the sale of its five franchises (Rs 4,670 crore). It’s also just days before the Women’s T20 World Cup, which starts in South Africa on February 10.

Indian women’s cricket thus has everything going right for it at the moment.

Former Indian captain Anjum Chopra, commentating on the ILT20 in Dubai, was thrilled with the under-19 team’s feat.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling,” Chopra told Outlook. “Everything is falling into a nice place for women’s cricket in India. The last couple of weeks have been brilliant for the women’s game. And this win adds to that.”

The BCCI announced a reward of Rs 5 crore for the team and support staff.

The Indian coach Nooshin al Khadeer had been part of the team that had lost the 2005 World Cup final to Australia. On finally savouring a win, she said,

“Fabulous, this is the feeling we have been waiting for. This is the first time we won the cup and it has come with the U-19 kids. Just shows the kind of depth we have and what is there for us in the future. The most special thing is the belief.”

Sadhu said, “It's surreal. Have been looking forward to this day for a long time. We had a plan in our minds, and thankfully we executed what we planned."

At many places around India there would be girls who might not know where Potchefstroom is, but they’ll see that Indian girls have won a cricket World Cup, and will find inspiration to conquer peaks in various spheres of life, undaunted by their circumstances or gender.