There weren’t many takers to watch the opening match of the Women’s World Cup played between India and West Indies at Brabourne Stadium yesterday, but the presence of school students was a pleasing sight. As a part of their campaign to popularise the sport at the grassroots level, the ICC are targeting local school kids to come and watch the game.
“We went to around 200-250 schools and dropped in invitations and the schedule of the World Cup. We even ran a program where we took the World Cup trophy to popular schools like Don Bosco (Matunga), Anjuman-I-Islam (CST) and Rizvi Springfield (Bandra) among others. We are trying to get in kids from nearby schools to watch the matches. We aim to get in around 5000 kids to come for every televised match to popularise the sport. Even the principals of their respective schools encouraged children to watch and support Women’s World Cup,” said an ICC official.
The match turned out to be a memorable outing for Shweta Raju Didla (13) of Gokhale School. “I have never got the opportunity to watch a match in a stadium. I have watched only M S Dhoni and his team on TV. But it was fun to see women play too. We came to cheer the local girl, Poonam Raut,” said Shweta.
Suyog Jagannath, also from the same school, was excited to see Indian skipper and World No 1 batswoman Mithali Raj. “We have only heard about Mithali Raj. Today watching her in the flesh was a different feeling. I hope we get to see more such matches,” 12-year-old Suyog told MiD DAY.
The 1000-odd school kids cheered every move of Mithali Raj and local girl Poonam Raut, who scored 72.
Sasikala, a Sallu fan
Bollywood and cricket have always had a strong connection. During a media briefing ahead of the Sri Lanka versus England tie, Sri Lanka women’s captain Sasikala Siriwardena revealed that she is a very big Salman Khan fan. “As a kid, after coming back from school, there were Bollywood movies on television with Sinhalese sub-titles.
80 per cent of our team follow Bollywood closely and even know Hindi. The younger women adore younger heroes like Ranbir Kapoor, but my favourite is Salman Khan. I have seen all his movies but his first film ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ remains special,” she said.
The last movie she watched in a movie hall was a cricket-related film — Rani Mukherjee-starrer ‘Dil Bole Hadippa’.
Familiar faces at matches the Indian men’s team were spotted at yesterday’s Women’s World Cup opener. They were former India Test player Yajurvindra Singh, former chairman of selectors and wicketkeeper Kiran More. Also seen watching with interest were Nandini Sardesai (wife of late Test cricketer Dilip Sardesai) and former India women’s captain Diana Edulji, who recently slammed the BCCI for their so-called discriminatory treatment of women’s cricket.
Show ’em all
Former cricketers reckon that if the administrator wants to take women’s cricket to a larger audience, they need to televise all the matches of the ongoing Women’s World Cup.
“Women’s cricket in India is not as popular as it is in Australia, South Africa or England. With the World Cup being held here, if all matches are televised the popularity will grow. If the Indian team plays well then it is an added bonus,” said former India wicketkeeper Kiran More. Diana Edulji said: “Why televise only certain matches? It is a World Cup. All matches should be shown on TV.”