People might know it as a gentlemen’s game but the first ever cricket World Cup was the Women’s World Cup held in England in 1973. Team Australia has reigned superior in women’s cricket winning 6 World Cup titles. But this time England maintained its World Cup winning streak at home lifting the title at the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 for the fourth time. England came back from the brink to beat India by nine runs in a thrilling final on Sunday 23rd July 2017, in front of the first ever sold out crowd for a women’s match at Lord's.
“The first ever cricket World Cup was the Women’s World Cup held in England in 1973”
To call this Women's World Cup a revolution for the game would not be an overstatement. In spite of Wimbledon and the NatWest T20 Blast happening along the same time in England, a estimated TV viewership of 100 million and record-breaking sell-out crowds at several games, this women’s World Cup has set the benchmark for cricket globally.
What was absolutely clear was the transformative power this tournament has had on the women's game. Sold-out games – especially the loud, boisterous crowd at Lords for the final, tight finishes and heroic individual performances made for an intoxicating blend. Such brushstrokes paint a vibrant picture of how the sport can evolve at the global level.
The ICC changed the format from a group stage to a single round-robin where the top 4 teams qualified for the semis. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa joined the top four nations England, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies, after qualifying at the World Cup Qualifiers held earlier this year in Sri Lanka.
The round-robin stage was packed with plenty of action with gun blazing batting and lethal fast bowling from some of the world’s top cricketers. The quality of cricket on display was the best to be seen in modern day women’s cricket. A run rate of 4.69 across the entire tournament; 15 totals of 250 or more; 70 scores of fifty plus runs and more than 100 sixes being struck in a Women's World Cup are all proof of the advancement the women’s game has made.
The dominance of the batswomen was a real eye catcher. Five of the top ten scores in World Cups were scored this year. There were several spectacular performances; such as Chamari Atapattu with 178*, Harmanpreet Kaur hitting 171*, Meg Lanning’s 152*, Tammy Beaumont’s 148 and Sarah Taylor’s 147. Further Indian captain Mithali Raj scripted history as she became the all-time leading run-scorer in women's ODI history with 6,028 runs surpassing former England captain Charlotte Edwards' tally of 5,992 runs.
Sri Lanka’s Chamari Atapattu smashed the third-highest score in women’s ODIs
Pakistan’s performance in the World Cup was not only disappointing but also unimpressive. Finishing rock bottom of the table and failing to register even a single win, Pakistan never looked threatening. The bowling department lacked discipline and venom, as Pakistan failed to bowl out any opposition. Poor ground fielding and spilled catches further let down the bowlers. The batters also failed to impress, as only four scores of 50 were registered and the highest team total was a mere 206, which was also not enough for victory.
Pakistani team failed to register a single win in the tournament
These shortcomings reflected poorly on Pakistan’s reputation of an upcoming competitive team which they had achieved in the World Cup ’09 held in Australia. The team had entered the tournament in 8th place, defeated Sri Lanka and West Indies to complete a successful run finishing 6th in the World Cup. Unfortunately since then Pakistan lost ten games on the trot in both editions of the mega event, despite having secured some good performances in other events during that time.
Moreover there were some moments of individual brilliance and significant positives by the team at this event as well. The exuberance of youth shone through the ranks of the team, playing with positive energy and enthusiasm.
Diana Baig a young multi-talented player spearheading Pakistan’s pace attack caught the eyes of the entire commentary team. She also plays football at the national level and her fitness and resilience reflected in her fast pace bowling and outstanding fielding. Nashra Sandhu a 19 year old left arm orthodox spinner who caught the eyes of the national selectors made her debut earlier this year in the qualifiers. She grasped the opportunity and finished on top of the list with 17 wickets in the competition and certainly impressed one and all with her variations and maturity at the World Cup. Sadly, none of the senior players arose to the occasion, and the loss of star player Bismah Maroof to injury was a big blow. Pakistan did play a few close matches, losing to South Africa by 3 wickets and to Sri Lanka by 15 runs.
Bismah Maroof was ruled out of World Cup with injury to her hand
An in-depth analysis reveals flaws in technique, and the team’s temperament and fitness was not up to international standards. The fact that the World Cup is the biggest event in Women’s Cricket, the Pakistan Cricket Board will now have to take firm decisions regarding the entire structure of women’s cricket.
Necessary reforms within the current domestic structure are required to enhance the quality of cricket rather than focusing on the quantity. Instilling a cricket culture at grass root level is of utmost importance in building a platform at the junior level. The players will have to improve and strengthen both physically and mentally, adopting an aggressive approach in order to compete with the world’s best.
With security concerns still prevailing in the country and most foreign teams not willing to visit Pakistan, PCB will have to take the initiative of building state of the art, high performance centres for women, where professional coaches and modern training techniques should be implemented. Former female cricketers local and international must be invited as mentors, motivators and idols. International exposure for Under-21 and A-team is important, assuring quality cricket at the junior level. All these measures will not only improve the standard of cricket but will also increase the bench strength for the national side.
“Former female cricketers local and international must be invited as mentors, motivators and idols. International exposure for Under-21 and A-team is important, assuring quality cricket at the junior level.”
This World Cup has been a harsh reminder of the reality of cricket in Pakistan. It is extremely necessary to understand and accept the causes for failure, and modifications will need to be made if we are to have any fighting chance in the future. Teams like South Africa and India are ideal examples of the progress that is achievable with the correct facilities, innovative thinking and training techniques.
The top countries showcased superb athleticism and aggressiveness taking the sport to a whole new level. Pakistan will have to improve leaps and bounds in order to compete at the international stage. With only a couple of years to the next qualification, the PCB will have to brainstorm, restructure and rebuild women’s cricket with definitive goals in mind.