We must always find a reason to celebrate- our country’s presence and achievements at the world stage. That’s what the sport teaches us and that is why we compete in the sports field.
Whenever India is up against Australia in any discipline; we always know it will be a good contest. Australia gave us a drubbing in Men’s Hockey at the Commonwealth
Games and a day earlier our women’s cricket team learnt another loss the hard way from the World Champions.
Australia is a strong force in the field of sport and each time we face them there is a lesson; a lesson to improve holistically. To be fair, the Indian women cricket teams have known this right through decades and generations. Australia know how to win. If you match their skill level; then their belief and confidence takes over; that pulls them ahead of their competition.
Harmanpreet, the senior most member in this Indian side; since making her debut in 2009 has been involved in many semi-finals and now finals too where the final lap is still unconquered. And she knows it better than the rest that the last one is the toughest lap. During the medal ceremony while the Indian contingent acknowledged the crowd with silver medals around their neck; Harman stood still.
It will be anyone’s guess that she was still in disbelief, still searching those answers with many thoughts rushing through her mind- of what more will give India the winners’ pedestal. Playing as a professional in international cricket leagues has certainly opened up the mindset, enhanced the skill levels and more so given a player a massive opportunity to learn and know their individual game. Jemimah has succeeded in the UK leagues, Smriti and Harman have been successful in both UK and Australia. Deepti Sharma and Radha Yadav have also had good outings. But it’s just the beginning. It is a long, time-consuming process.
Just to give an idea- for a male cricketer; a journey from India Under-19 to becoming a consistent member or match winner for the senior men’s team takes approximately 5-7 years or more. Leaving aside the pathway to becoming an India U19 player; this male player from there on will continuously be playing in the IPL, domestic tournaments, India A tours and will be busy throughout the year.
Whereas, an Indian woman cricketer would play half the number of days of that in comparison. So; the development cannot be at the same pace keeping all parameters common. For a 5 feet 4inch average height of team to match 5’8′ average height team will require a lot of skill and strength.
As a player I have always liked competing against the good teams who are probably better than us too. And in that preparation to succeed the mindset is also to win that battle (individually against the bowler and collectively as a team). A lot has not changed over a decade. India still looks to beat Australia/England. Whereas these teams look to create their own new paths to succeed. While we play catch up, they are progressing to another height. Good for the ones behind as a pathway is already made; but how quickly you cross it remains an individual’s effort.
I felt bad that India lost the gold medal match at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Similar flaws came to the forefront for India. But reflecting back on the areas that had shown improvement; it gave me solace that we are progressing. Harman acknowledged that she required another batter alongside her to finish that final lap.
We have one and very soon will have more than one for India. Sport is all about progressing…
(Anjum Chopra is a former captain of the Indian women’s cricket team. The views expressed here are personal)