As India beat England to lift inaugural Women’s U-19 T20 World Cup, and later matching their steps to Kala Chashma in a celebratory dance, wishes poured in from various quarters. Right from PM Narendra Modi to the legendary Sachin Tendulkar to the Indian men’s senior cricket team, everyone hailed a glorious future ahead, Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan tweeted ‘Khatiya khadi kar di … India!’
Indian women cricket is enjoying a new phase. Biopics are being made; Shabaash Mithu hit the screens in July 2022 and celebrated the meteoric rise of former captain Mithali Raj; Chakda Xpress, due to hit OTT by the end of 2023, headlined by Anushka Sharma, rightfully questions if cricket is the religion, why are men the only Gods?
The upcoming inaugural season the Women’s Premier League 2023 in March to be held in Mumbai with five teams, BCCI announcing equal match fee for men and women cricketers; walking the ramp, clinching top brand endorsements to cover pages – women cricket is inching, even if not striding, towards all-new glory.
As the Shafali Verma-led India U-19 squad, which got a pep talk by Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra a day prior to the final, managed to dominate the global event, women cricketers are thrilled at the prospects. We catch the Chandigarh UT team at the Mumbai airport post their Senior Women’s One Day League. Their manager Indu Gupta mentions, “A few years back, people weren’t even aware that we also have a women’s cricket team. The U19 win gets us global attention.”
Batter Nikita Nain is happy things are looking up. “This win and five teams at up IPL is a sure step up,” says Kashvi Gautam, known for her 10 wickets for 12 runs feet in a Chandigarh-Arunachal Pradesh Women’s Under 19 One Day Trophy in 2020.
She is also kicked about the IPL for women. “It will be a great platform to showcase talent. Hopefully, it’s advertised well. Only if more and more people come to the stadiums, we can march ahead.”
Rajni Devi doesn’t see women cricket coming on par with men’s in the near future but is grateful for the opportunities opening up, “Our U19 team getting a woman coach in Nooshin Al Khadeer made a significant difference. Give us support and we will shine.” Aradhana Bisht is excited about the win too and aims to register a place in the national squad. “I want to give consistent performances and win many matches for my country,” says this all-rounder.
Meanwhile, it’s not just the 22 yards where the female cricketers have shown their magic. Many have rocked the ramp or have showcased their glamorous side off the field. Mithali Raj walked the ramp for Payal Singhal at the Lakmé Fashion Week 2020. Jhulan Goswami took part in the Kolkata Fashion week, Harmanpreet Kaur too walked for designer Archana Kochhar.
Just after the win, Puma India announced their brand ambassador. Their campaign has been equally interesting, “On January 28, we put out a video asking you to guess the next Puma ambassador who played 100+ T20 matches and has the strike rate of 100, and here’s what you had to say.” And 80 per cent of people were guessing male cricketers! The video culminates with an announcement, “Think again, Arjuna Awardee, 59 per cent win record as captain in T20’s, presenting to you, Captain Harmanpreet Kaur.” Cricketer Harleen Deol too has been on the company’s roster.
Harmanpreet Kaur gets Rs 50-60 lakh per endorsement. While Mithali Raj endorses bats from Laver & Wood, Kaur has a sponsorship deal with CEAT; the latter endorses Nike, sports wearable start-up, Str8bat and ITC’s juice brand B Natural.
The women squad is strong on Instagram as well. Former captain Mithali Raj has 1.8M followers, while Jhulan Goswami, Jemimah Rodrigues and Shafali Verma also enjoy a considerable clout.
Smriti Mandhana, who has strong Insta presence at 7 million, did five big endorsements in 2020, including Hero MotoCorp (bat sponsorship) and Bata’s sportswear brand Power. Earlier in 2019, she promoted DBS Bank, OnePlus, Greenply, Vivo and CricBuzz. Besides Mandhana, three more Indian women cricketers, Jemimah Rodrigues, Taniya Bhatia and Shafali Verma, were signed by Hyundai Motor India as brand ambassadors. Harleen Deol, who has 1.4 million fan-following on Instagram, has been associated with brands like Puma and SleepyCat Ultima. Harmanpreet Kaur, Harleen Deol, Mithali Raj, and Smriti Mandhana have also been on the cover pages of many magazines.