Pune: The Girls Sadu Shinde Cricket League (T20), being played at the Law college ground has little fanfare, hype or buzz associated with the shortest form of international cricket.
That is, until, during a drinks break or after the game, you have a word with the cricketers on the field.
The grassroots and the future of Indian women’s cricket is here, being played out by straight driving batswomen; devilishly quick (even by women’s cricket standards) fast bowlers; and “field first, talk later” cricket coaches.
Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur are the names spoken of in inspirational tones and the Indian women’s cricket team’s two runner-up finishes in the previous T20 world cups is the key driving factor.
“I have watched both the finals, and played cricket for the last three years. We all are from Kolhapur and we follow women’s cricket. We have 34 girls from our school who play cricket every day,” is how Saumyalata Birajdar, captain of the Stadium Cricket Club, describes her passion.
At the Law college ground, Stadium Cricket Club defeated Sahamat Cricket Club by 24 runs in a group stage match.
In the 2017 T20 World Cup final, the Indian women’s team lost to England, and in 2020, India went down against Australia, again in the final.
At the Law college ground, player of the match, Sneha Sale took four wickets for 17 runs for Stadium Cricket Club.
“I have only watched the final of the 2020. The performance by the Indian team, gave us all the belief that women can make a career in cricket. Now parents don’t object when we go and play cricket,” says Sale.
Currently there are 40 cricket clubs in Pune where women are training.
The Pune District Cricket Association (PDCA) has been organising the cricket league for women for the last six years. “This year, 20 teams are participating and it is the highest number so far,” said Arvind Shivale, president, PDCA.
PDCA also has plans of conducting 50-over tournaments in future.
Kirti Ghatge, a big fan of Shoaib Akthar, wants to bowl fast like him.
“I love taking long run-ups, but I still don’t have much pace; I am working on it,” said Ghatge, a 16-year-old bowler from Sahamat Cricket Club.
“Women cricketers not only in Pune city but around the state have a busy schedule these days as local tournaments have increased in the last three years. Since cricket restarted, after the Covid break, we have been having back-to-back tournaments; sometimes even two matches on the same day. More girls now want to take up cricket professionally,” says Tejal Hasabnis, an India ‘A’ player.
Indian player Mona Meshram, who visited Pune to play a local tournament last month, adds, “The dimension of women cricket has changed in the last few years. All talk is about women cricket and the number of girls training in clubs has also increased.”
Mohan Jadhav, coach, Vengsarkar Cricket Academy, says, “I remember 5 years before there were only five entries for the Girls Sadu Shinde Cricket League (T20), but the number now is 20. Even at the Vengsarkar Cricket Academy we now have a complete team.”
The women are showing interest in maintaining their fitness and quality of their game has also improved.
Vikram Deshmukh, founder of Cricket Next Academy, says, “From the age of 10 girls have started playing cricket and they have developed sharp knowledge about the game. Parents are also coming forward and allowing them to play.”
Girls Sadu Shinde Cricket League (T20)
Total teams: 20
Teams divided in four groups; teams play 3 matches in league round
Group A: ATS, Clubs of Club, AK Black Panthers, Gaikwad CA,
Group B: PDCA, PYC, PMP, Shirur Sports,
Group C: Vengsarkar Cricket Academy, AK Thunderbolt, Charandros, Nanaware (SA Girls)
Group D: Sahamat Cricket Club, Surya Education Trust, Stadium CC, Rising Sports
Group E: Warriors CA, RK Cricket, Azam Sports, Holy Spirit.