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2023: A year of women’s cricket

Last updated on 29 Dec 2023 | 01:13 PM
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2023: A year of women’s cricket

Despite the gloom that surrounds women’s cricket and its issues, 2023 should (and hopefully would) be remembered as a game changer for them

If there was a Bollywood movie made on women’s cricket’s development in the last few years or so, then the entirety of 2023 would be like a one big montage in the second act with upbeat/motivational music in the background. 

Take Chak De India for example, where all the group stage matches of the Indian women’s hockey team were shown through a single montage. Sukhwinder Singh’s booming voice and Salim-Sulaiman’s zestful music combined together to create a palpable sense of energy and growth. 

2023 gave that same sense of energy and growth to women’s cricket, and it began right from the start of the year with the immensely successful ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa. 

While the result was more or less expected, with the Australian juggernaut rolling on mercilessly, the most heartening thing to see in the tournament was the response of the local South African crowd as they filled the stadiums in the semi-finals for the Protea women. 

Until a few years ago, to expect such ballooning of women’s cricket fandom in the rainbow nation would have been preposterous. But here we were, watching the crowd chant and clap in unison as Shabnim Ismail ran in with the ball like a cheetah. 

As it turned out, it was the last time the speedster appeared in a T20 World Cup as she announced retirement from international cricket in May.

However, an even bigger development happened prior to the World Cup which set forward a much needed structure for young women cricketers across the world - the inaugural U19 World Cup. 

Junior cricket pathways for women are hardly developed in most countries. Hence, having an U19 World Cup forced cricket boards to focus on their under 19 girls and get them ready for the World Cup in South Africa, where just like the men’s U19 World Cup, new stars emerged left right and centre. 

Participation of nations like Brazil and Rwanda in the World Cup and performances of their players showed the cricketing world that the women’s game has travelled and grown further and faster than the men’s. Teenagers like Laura Cardoso (Brazil) and Henriette Ishimwe (Rwanda) were living examples of that. 

Meanwhile, India reaped the rewards of having a proper system for its U19 girls, as domestic tournaments were organised, and players were scouted from across the country. A dedicated coaching ecosystem was also created akin to the men’s under the leadership of Nooshin Al Khadeer. 

As a result, despite having players with senior cricket experience like Shafali Verma and Richard Ghosh, it was the likes Shweta Sehrawat (highest run scorer of the tournament), Gongadi Trisha, Titas Sadhu, Mannat Kashyap and Parshavi Chopra who hogged the limelight with their game and won India the trophy. 

As these U19 girls were paraded on decorated vehicles in the biggest stadium in the world, this writer couldn’t help but play Chak De India in his head. Indian women’s cricket was growing, and the world finally saw how these young girls hailing from the most populous country of this planet were already stars in their own right. 

And all those stars really shone bright, when the auction for the inaugural Women’s Premier League (the richest T20 league in the world after the IPL) took place. 

Meanwhile, the beginning of the WPL wasn’t just a win for the past, present and future of Indian women’s cricket. It also showed the world that women’s cricketers are worthy of hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on them. Their faces started being plastered more readily on billboards. Indian cricketers like Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur even appeared on coveted magazine covers like Forbes and Vogue. Kaur was also included in the Times magazine list of top 100 emerging leaders shaping the world. 

Along with these monumental transformations in visibility, incremental improvements happened in the financial health of a large number of women cricketers as announcements on provision of equal match fee were made for India, New Zealand, England and South African women. 

However, the caveat of women playing far fewer games than the men still exists (for eg: the Indian women have played only 25 games this year as compared to 66 played by the men’s team), meaning that pay parity is still some distance away. 

All these developments were unimaginable for women cricketers, especially the ones outside of England and Australia, until a few years ago. But things transformed this year for good, and you know what’s the best part? The transformation wasn’t just off the field! 

Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have probably had their best year in history. Under Nigar Sultana, the Bangladeshi women defeated South Africa in South Africa, and India at home in ODIs - a feat they had never achieved before. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan women, despite playing a tragically low number of games, defeated England in England in a T20I series. 

If Bangladesh and Sri Lanka women had great years, then the growth of Pakistan was even more heartening as they won their first ever series against New Zealand. The fact that they did it at the home of the White Ferns makes it even more special. 

The 2024 T20 World Cup is in Bangladesh, and this time there’s a good chance that the Indian women (who are the current Asian Games gold medallists and Asia Cup winners) won’t be the only Asian nation vying for the top four places. 

Along with these three nations, associate nations and their players have also found themselves in the limelight this year. 

The Fairbreak Invitational deserves a lot of credit for this, as cricketers from nations like Oman, Bhutan, Nepal, USA, Scotland and many more found themselves playing alongside the likes of Heather Knight and other top international cricketers. Fairbreak also initiated research on other dynamics of the women’s game like the right kind of sportswear and breast support which is still an under researched aspect of the game. 

Meanwhile, the WPL also included the clause of teams being allowed to field one associate nation player as the fifth overseas pick in the eleven. That ensured that the likes of Tara Norris from USA and Kathryn Bryce from Scotland have found themselves basking in the glitz and fame of the WPL. 


2023 was the year of women’s cricket. There’s no doubt about that. However, there’s still a lot of issues that need to be addressed including the step motherly attitude most cricket boards have towards women’s cricket. The International Cricket Council (ICC) remains a bystander on most of these issues including the controversy on Afghanistan women's team. 

Despite the gloom that surrounds these problems, 2023 should (and hopefully would) be remembered as a game changer for women’s cricket. It filled so many vibrant and vivacious colors in a painting where only the outlines were drawn.

As the montage of this year ends, we all can hopefully look forward to an equally worthy following act for women’s cricket in 2024, which would emanate even more zestful energy. 

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