As the women in blue fight it out in the ongoing T20 Women’s World Cup, HarperCollins India is all set to celebrate the release of Free Hit, a narrative history of women’s cricket in India.
Long considered a sideshow to men’s cricket in cricket-crazy India, it was the telecast of the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup that ushered the winds of change amongst Indian fans of the game. Award-winning journalist Suprita Das (whose first book Shadow Fighter we published) has been actively following the journey of the Indian women’s cricket team over the years and has made a compilation of a few interesting pieces of trivia about some of our women players. There’s a lot more in the book (Pre-order it now!), but for now, here are a few remarkable facts that the world should be talking about a lot more than we do at the moment:
- Mithali Raj is the youngest cricketer to score a century on her ODI debut. She made 114 not out against Ireland in Milton Keynes 1999 when she was 16 years and 250 days old!
- For seven years, between 2000-07, Mithali Raj was never dismissed for a duck.
- Deepti Sharma (188 off 160 balls) and Punam Raut (109 off 116 balls) became the first women’s cricketers to share a 300-run stand in ODIs. They put on a 320-run partnership against Ireland in the quadrangular series in South Africa in 2017.
- When 17-year-old Smriti Mandhana became the first Indian woman to score a double ton in domestic cricket, she played with a bat that originally belonged to Rahul Dravid, who had had gifted it to Smriti’s brother, Shravan, during his playing days as a junior cricketer.
- Smriti Mandhana is actually a natural right hander. She turned left handed on the insistence of her father who was obsessed with left handed batsmen. Smriti’s favourite player in the world, hence, is a left hander – Kumar Sangakkara.
- Jhulan Goswami’s first love has always been football. The die-hard Diego Maradona fan was inconsolable when Argentina lost the 1990 FIFA World Cup final to West Germany. Jhulan used to scribble Maradona’s name all over her school books.
- Harmanpreet Kaur’s father didn’t speak with her for months after she cut her long hair as it was getting tedious to wash it after cricket practice every day. He eventually made peace with it.
- Women’s cricket in India was founded by a man! Lucknow’s Mahendra Kumar Sharma formed the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) in 1973. WCAI ran the women’s game in India till 2006 when it merged with the BCCI after an ICC ruling.
- Diana Edulji, current COA member and former India captain, broke four front teeth while playing colony cricket as a teenager. But the experience didn’t deter her from becoming a cricketer!
- A photograph of Mithali Raj reading The Essential Rumi went viral during the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup, but did you know that books and Mithali go back a long way? It all started with a Sidney Sheldon title offered to her by a senior teammate during a long train journey when Mithali was still a teenager. Sheldon’s books have always been a perennial favourite for the Indian captain.
- During the 2009 ICC World Cup in Australia, Harmanpreet Kaur hit such a huge six in the game against the hosts, that her bat had to be sent to a laboratory for checking. Kaur had to undergo a dope test too, as the authorities were suspicious of the insane amount of power with which she hit it!
- Opener Punam Raut almost got picked for Mumbai’s U-14 Boys’ team when she was 12 years old. Raut’s coach had sent her for the trials to test her skills among boys.