‘Can the morning be more mundane?’ asks a blue-clad girl, failing to appreciate the slow beauty of the spring morning. ‘Alas, I wish we were in one of those venues, eating some English Fish and chips before playing a game in one of those County Grounds’
Just like the contrast in character between a smart Sheldon Cooper and his siblings in the Big Bang Theory spin-off prequel Young Sheldon, the grown-up period couldn’t be more anti-climatic for the certain girl sitting in Pune. The pandemic has thrown a spanner in their works but life has literally become a joke, with social distancing and masks being more important than smashing leather for fun. Cricket, as they and we knew it, had undergone a total metamorphosis, with the elitist bio-bubble being the order of the day. The girl left the training ground, possibly ruing the bad amen that the COVID has brought to one and all.
Meanwhile, the figment of the imagination had led to something dramatic, something catastrophic even. It was then Diana Edulji, intimated by the public source of information on the Internet, decided to have her opportunity, running round the cricketing circle. Wasting no second, the former member of the Committee of Administrators called up her former comrade Shantha Rangaswamy, who incidentally is one of the members in all-powerful BCCI Apex Council. Rangaswamy might have expected the call would be revolving around the upcoming IPL and how much she is enjoying her role, but the bombshell dropped right away.
“This sets a terrible precedent, Shantha,” Edulji said, before adding, “You saw what we did. The team reached 2017 Final and 2018 semi-final. We started the trend of Women’s T20 Challenge. But you guys are taking it all down.”
Rangaswamy was surprised by the sudden burst from someone who she knew for many many years. She knew it was Edulji's alter ego speaking, with the social media campaign of BCCI destroying women's cricket in favour of IPL doing rounds. Rangaswamy was sure that Edulji saw this as an opportunity to spread her own little agenda, but she was up for a detailed explanation anyway.
“See Diana, Don’t you see this is evident during the COVID time. We all are slaves of the virus now? And for your information, the team reached the final in 2020 too and almost spoiled the party once and for all. We are obviously better than what you think we are.”
“Better? Oh please. We created the women’s IPL. The team touched down upon hitherto untouched miles. You see despite me and Vinod fighting over issues on a regular basis, we created a pathway that was beneficial. Now that despite the ECB paying the entire cost, you are unable to send a team to England. Don’t tell me you care.”
The discussion was going haywire by now, with the blame game almost hitting the pinnacle. It was when Edulji decided to show that the batch of 2017-2019 had more in common that their 2020 avatar could ever assimilate upon. Was Rangaswamy worried? Certainly not, cause they are feeding the fans the ultimate thing they want at the moment - the IPL.
“You see, the IPL is money-puller. We bring money from the IPL, inject capital to the women’s cricket system. You see it is really important for us to prioritise that,” Rangaswamy replied, after a brief pause, but before she could finish her sentence, Edulji fired back by saying, “Oh Well. Don’t repeat the same b***s*** again. We all know how that works”
She further added, “You must not have forgotten how Smriti, Harman, Veda and Jemi played in WBBL and KSL in the last few years. Smriti became a path-breaking performer in England and Jemi did well to become the face of New India.”
But Rangaswamy knew the game and replied, “Well, under our regime, we created more videos than you have done. Our girls are hosting shows on Youtube, went to the Kapil Sharma Show and a few of them have fan pages on Instagram with boys going crazy for them. The stakes have gone up for that. You can’t create a brand by just playing cricket.”
“Are you serious, Shantha”
“No, but then again, did you guys ever able to fill half the stands and create the sort of atmosphere we did in Surat. It was unbelievably crazy. Even in an A series in Patna, the sort of things we created gave us a manifold attachment with women’s cricket - something that shows we care.”
“Didn’t Sourav interfere in all this, Shantha. Let’s get this together. You say you have taken the sport notches ahead which is baffling because you couldn’t send your team to England despite all the pre-arrangements being made by the ECB. I don’t want to get into that anymore but it is sad to see you doing nothing different to prioritize women's cricket. When you sleep tonight, just imagine, who is the selector of the women’s team and why despite the presence of a former Indian women’s cricketer in the Cricket Advisory Committee, no panel has been appointed yet. Just sleep over it.”
It was the time for Edulji to hang up the call but it was a moment of self-introspection for Rangaswamy, who became the first female apex council member. So much so that she called Ganguly about the process of appointment. Ganguly, who is fighting his own little battle, as usual, disconnected the call even before receiving it and just like that, the hope of a women’s cricket's revival in the near future fell apart.
The girl, sitting on the Balewadi lawn, packed her stuff and left for home, for she knew Covid had its own riding but the baffling business doomed her career in a way she never thought or expected. Hope, my friend, is the biggest leveller and nothing other than tears could help fill the gaps.