Imagine the Chicago Bulls without Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippin. Imagine a Formula One with no Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen. Imagine a South African cricket team without AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis.
You don’t need to guess. All these things came into force and signaled the end of the era of that sport. Now, look at the women’s T20 Challenge squads, which don’t include Mithali Raj or Julan Goswami, and you know you’re looking at the end of another era.
Goswami retires from T20 format in 2018. Raj did so in 2019. Yet both players were part of an earlier version of the 2020 Women’s T20 Challenge. From her international debut, Raj in 1999 and Goswami in 2002, she has made every major milestone in women’s cricket in India through two World Cup finals in 2005 and 2017. But as India plays the final version of these exhibition matches (hopefully anything), their absence is noteworthy.
At the same time, do not stand out. This is because the new generation of players are declaring themselves in Pune.
Every match of this Women’s T20 Challenge has broken records. In the first game, a score above 160 was first posted. In the second, he chased more than 150 targets for the first time, and in the third, scored a record 364 runs. But it was expected later. The quality of women’s cricket in India, though not Raj and Goswami, is too high to fit into only three teams with four foreign players each. It sounded like a tornado in a small library and then surprised to see the mess. Last December, a four-team Challenger Trophy was played for India’s top nine players.
Check out the match scorecard of 364: Smriti Mandana’s Trailblazers scored 190/5, with Mandana contributing just 1. Sabbineni Meghana, a small town in Vijayawada, scored 73 out of 47. The speed was reduced. Total, but Trailblazers were denied a place in the final by NRR (Net Run Rate) by Kiran Navagire’s spectacular innings. She put her hometown Mire, Solapur (and women’s cricket) on the map by scoring 69 in 34 balls in her first high-profile tournament. She hit five sixes, including her first delivery. If you haven’t seen the highlights of this game, watch them now.
Although Meghna is a known quantity, the powerful Navagire has never played a Challenger Trophy. The story of a 26-year-old young man is worth repeating here. As a teenager she played javelin, shot put and 100 meters and took up cricket late in the year with a coach who gave her a scholarship in Pune. Already a formidable athlete, he left for Nagaland without being able to secure a place in the Maharashtra XI. There he slammed the door with 525 runs in seven T20s this year, hitting 35 sixes, 20 more than the next best shuffle. Any concerns of those runs against lower bowling in the plate group were mitigated by her performance in Pune.
Her power-hitting is likely to see her quickly track to the Indian team and earn a paycheck whenever the women’s IPL arrives. A media colleague who covers Olympic sports jokes that women’s IPL kills other women’s sports because every talented female athlete chooses cricket and financial prizes. This is of course an exaggeration, but women’s IPL inevitably attracts top female athletic talents to women’s cricket, where competition is thinner than men’s cricket but the rewards are more significant than other sports.
Which brings us back to Raj and Goswami, who played most of their cricket for a meager financial reward. These two are the greatest servants of Indian cricket, man or woman. They and they have financial security through government work, not IPL contracts. She deserves to sing in this new era of women’s IPL playing the next logical step after India’s heroic race to the final of the 2017 World Cup. Instead we still have exhibition games which show just how much talent India has without Raj and Goswami. Women’s cricket in India moved very slowly for them at first, and then quickly overtook them.