The focus of the entire cricketing world is now in the Caribbean Islands and will be for the next two weeks as a big portion of the cricket fans will follow the Women’s World T20 intensely.
It was not the same picture in earlier versions when the Women’s World T20 used to happen along with the Men’s World T20 and never got the similar importance or popularity. Most of the matches were not telecast live and key matches like Semi-final and Final used to be organized on the same day with the Men’s game in an earlier slot of the day. Despite issuing one single ticket for Women’s and Men’s final, even most of the crowd preferred to come only for the evening game i.e the men’s one. As a reason of this biased nature, fans used to point out the absence of big shots and lack of general attracting cricket in women’s game but things have changed manifold in recent times.
Post a successful Women’s World Cup in 2017, the game has captured the fancy of general cricket fans, especially in India, the biggest market of the game. For the first time, fans followed the progress of their team through traditional media and social media. Players like Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj, and Jhulan Goswami became household names. When the Indian team returned with runners-up medals, the players were all over the national media and gained instant fame.
In an ICC survey in June, the results showed a significant increase of interest in the Women’s game with close to 70% fans wanted to see more live telecast. That popularity brings more sponsors and telecasting companies identify women’s game as a potential cash cow. The current World T20 is being telecast close to 160 Territory whereas live digital coverage through various platforms will be available in more than 200 countries. Not only that, the telecast will also be covered by some of the most reputed names in global cricket commentary world including former Australia greats Lisa Sthalekar, Melanie Jones, former India captain Anjum Chopra, former England captain Nasser Hussain and regular faces like Tom Moody, Ian Bishop, and Sanjay Manjarekar to form a 14-member panel. Also with the live recording of all the matches available, ICC introduced DRS in all matches for the first time. To get more viewership and sponsors ICC has also decided to keep India’s matches in a prime time slot in India.
The great thing is that the players are also now well-equipped to return the favor to fans with some scintillating bit of performance. The fitness of the players has increased significantly and increased entertainment quotient in the game. The players are now much agile in the field; they dive across or make long chases down the boundary line regularly. Already we have seen Hayley Jensen take a brilliant well-judged catch in the first match. The running between the wickets has improved a lot with regular occurrences of quick two’s and three’s during the matches. More and more power hitters are on display in recent times, well demonstrated by Harmanpreet Kaur in tournament’s first match when she became the first Indian woman to score a T20 hundred in just 49 balls with 8 towering Sixes. The idea of her achievement can be well measured with this trivia, David Miller, Rohit Sharma and Chris Gayle are the only 3 players in Men’s game to score an international T20 Hundred in lesser than 49 deliveries.
Players like Suzie Bates, Harmanpreet, Ellyse Perry already star in Women’s cricket. But many more youngsters are coming up regularly to become fan favorites. Players like Ashleigh Gardner, Amelia Kerr, and Hayley Matthews have already made their marks in a short period of time with their performances in International cricket and franchise cricket like BBL and KIA Superleague. Another young player who is quickly developing a reputation in T20 Cricket is Jemimah Rodrigues. Despite her young age, she has a cool head and his maturity was put on the show when she added more than 100 runs with her captain Harmanpreet to take India out of a precarious 40 for 3 in the first match of the tournament against New Zealand. These younger players will inspire a younger generation of fans who will be a boost to enhance the overall popularity.
Another aspect of World T20 that fans are looking forward to is the close competition between the teams. Traditionally England, Australia and West Indies were considered the biggies in Women’s cricket. However, in Recent times India, New Zealand, and South Africa have come up well in the ranks with some handy players. Even teams like Bangladesh are also not so far behind as shown by their shocking Asia cup triumph over India early this year. Although their first match in the tournament was a one-sided one when Deandra Dottin led the annihilation and got them all out for just 46 runs. But despite that performance, in this shortest format teams like Bangladesh, Ireland, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are expected to provide surprises as we move ahead in the tournament. In fact, a close fight was already demonstrated in yesterday’s India-Pakistan match where Pakistan ran India pretty close thanks to some shoddy fielding by India. Finally, India emerged victoriously!
The 2018 World T20 had a blazing start on Friday and expected to provide more attractive cricket in coming days in those beautiful West Indian cricket grounds. Stay tuned!