On 20 July 2017, Harmanpreet Kaur’s six against Australia in an exceptional knock in the World Cup semi-final, and the victory that followed, was celebrated across India. And an indifferent nation awoke to the possibilities of women’s cricket.
Women’s cricket in India began in the early 1970s with the fortuitous coming together of (mostly) teenaged girls from around the country, with little but a spirit of adventure to back them. Several firsts followed—the first overseas tour, the first World Cup, the first controversies, the first win—and no one appeared to notice. Those early trendsetters kept at the rough and tumble of competitive sport, pushing back at gender discrimination, facing the challenges posed by a system that oscillated from apathetic to well intentioned.
Today, after the tipping point of 2017, if a little girl dreams of being like Mithali Raj or Jhulan Goswami or Smriti Mandhana, it’s because of those that came before and fought those early battles. Diana Edulji, Shanta Rangaswamy, Shubhangi Kulkarni, and many others.
Who are these women? What brought them to the cricket field? What does the current turnaround mean for the women’s game? The history of women’s cricket is the story of extraordinary women playing the ‘gentleman’s game’ for the sheer joy of it, wresting for themselves their rightful place in its firmament.