A LECHER’S GUIDE TO WOMEN’S CRICKET
By Ajit Chaudhuri
April is supposed to be the cruellest month. I beg to differ! Nothing is worse than June and July in odd number years – the period between football seasons and with no World Cups, Euros, Olympics or Asiads to watch. The other stuff on TV is execrable – news just has people shouting over each other, and movie channels are overloaded with a genre of films that defy logic; ugly, poor and boring girl meets handsome, rich and single guy who falls madly in love with her and spends the remainder of the film putting up with her shit to convince her that he’s the one (I believe they are called chick flicks). There used to be Wimbledon, but this has been taken over by respectable middle-aged men and a bunch of feminists who have achieved equal pay for less work and are now whining about equal time on centre court The Tour de France has been reduced to a bunch of drug addicts cycling through pretty scenery. What does your average sports-crazy couch potato do?
This year, I have been lucky! While channel surfing some weeks back, I came across a live women’s cricket match in which a tall and elegant left hander had me put down the remote and check out what was going on. I stayed with the channel through the match, and discovered in the process that there was women’s world cup (WWC) on, that the cricket was alright (but not great), and that there was something else that appealed to me that I could not articulate at the time. I subsequently saw many of the matches played, and now have a better idea of that ‘something else’ – it was a certain honesty, passion and unconditional love for the game that was common to all teams, that transcended money and contracts and images on TV and all that is completely absent from the men’s game. I saw players who were delighted to be there, who ensured that my focus stayed on cricket (nobody gave a crap about how she looked, or diverted attention with bizarre celebratory acts and hair styles), and who seemed determined to have their day in the sun before going back to their normal existences as bank clerks or dental assistants or whatever. In some ways, I felt I was back in the 1970s, in the days before cricket lost me as a fan.
“OK, so much for the cricket,” I can hear some of you, my dear readership, say, “how were the women?” And I confess that, despite my observations of the previous paragraph, I was not oblivious to this question. And my answer is – on average, not great! But averages are misleading; there was some talent in the looks department out there, I did expend time and effort weeding them out, and this note is the outcome of my study. But first, a few caveats – my sampling frame is inadequate (I did not see the West Indies and South Africa play), validity is an issue (cricket is not suitable for research of this nature, with helmets and protective padding serving as the equivalent of burkhas), and I had my own biases (for example, she had to be a good cricketer to make the list). Anyhow, here is a top 10 in alphabetic order!
Anya Shrubsole (England): You would not like to confront this big and beefy fast bowler in a dark alley, but the England vice-captain has a pretty and kind face that stayed put for me despite her changing the outcome of the championship game.
Deepti Sharma (India): She is unlikely to ever model fairness cream, but there is something about this girl that grows on you. She bats left-handed and gets her runs when they are most needed, bowls right arm off spin, fields brilliantly, is involved through the course of a game, and caps it all with a radiant smile. India’s most significant losses came when she was demoted down the batting order. At 19, she is one among those who will take Indian cricket into the future. Watch out for her!
Diana Baig (Pakistan): A cricket and football international, this young fast bowler brings athleticism to the Pakistani fielding – one forward-diving pick-up and throw on to the stumps was of a standard that could be an example to its men’s team.
Ellyse Perry (Australia): The Imran Khan of women’s cricket – a genuine all-rounder (i.e. could get into any team in the world on the basis of her batting or bowling alone) who would not be out of place on a catwalk. She is also a football international (always a plus with me), and is married to an Australian rugby international (always a minus).
Hannah Rowe (New Zealand): A tall fast bowler who I don’t know too much about but like anyway.
Inoka Ranaweera (Sri Lanka): The Sri Lankan captain is the only one here purely because of her looks (as discerned by me at one of Sri Lanka’s post-match prize-giving ceremonies). She didn’t have much to say, but looked good while saying it.
Jess Jonassen (Australia): This left arm spinner looks like a schoolmistress (always neat and tidy, hair tied tightly in a bun, emotions always in control), but there’s enough on her to make you speculate as to what it would be like to have her on your arm in an evening gown, with her hair down and a glass of wine in her other hand.
Prasadani Weerakkody (Sri Lanka): A rubenesque left-hander with a Sourav Ganguly-like off-drive – my time spent watching Sri Lanka’s ultimately unsuccessful chase of an Indian total was worth it because of her. She is my No. 1 on the list.
Smriti Mandhana (India): Her WWC was an example of the law of diminishing marginal utility – a good first two outings, and then first in and first out in every subsequent match (with less and less time between the two). But, she contributed in the field through the tournament, including going for catches that she had no chance of reaching, and she is only 20 so things I hope will get better. She is the elegant left-hander of para 2 that had me hooked in the first place. And she looks OK too!
Veda Krishnamurthy (India): I understood why she is in the team only in the last league match – until then, all she did was bubble around in the field, instantly recognizable by the swagger in her step and the colour in her hair. If there was any cricketing talent, it was not obvious to me (she even managed to get herself out in a crucial game without facing a ball). I now know she is the designated pinch-hitter in the side, is good at it, is also a judo black belt, and she is not unpleasant on the eye.