Shubhangi Kulkarni, 61, is still India’s best woman all-rounder in Test cricket. She has played 19 Tests between 1976 and 1991, scored 700 runs with 118 against England at Collingham in 1986 as her highest, has taken 60 wickets and held 14 catches. She is all excited about India set to play a Test after seven years; against England at Bristol from June 16.
Suddenly attention is rivetted on women’s cricket. Some for good reasons, like going to England for a full tour, and some for the wrong reasons,like the change of coach business?
The England tour is definitely exciting. Our players have done well in England, and won the last Test match that they played there in 2014. England is a happy hunting ground for the women.
It’s good that the attention is on the women’s game now! They need to play a lot of cricket between now and the ICC Women’s World Cup 2022, if they have to bring the Cup. The coach’s (W.V. Raman) term was over and due for renewal/change. I’m not aware why exactly the change was made.
Taniya Bhatia, Shikha Pandey, Ekta Bisht are back in the team and Shafali Verma has been included. Should they not have been included in the series against South Africa?
I had not seen all the players from close quarters since all the women’s domestic matches are not shown live on any channel. Hence when I saw the new names before the South Africa series, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But these players were quite impressive in the earlier international matches and should have made it to the team. There was a report that the selection committee was trying out new players and so they will be best to answer that.
Considering the ICC WWC is in 2022 which is only a year away, and in the current pandemic situation where we don’t know how many series the women will play before the WWC, I felt the best players needed to get as much exposure and practice as possible to prepare for the major event and to get the right combination. I personally feel we should have played our best team and included these players.
What do you make of the circumstances in 2018 (Ramesh Powar sacked as coach) and 2021 (Powar getting a second stint as coach). Was it right on the part of Mithali to file charges against Powar? Now that he is back, and she is the captain for the Test and ODI series, will things be easy for the team?
I was not privy to what exactly happened in 2018, and read about it in the media. I think we should focus on what we should do now and there is no point in going back to what happened then. I am sure both Powar and Mithali are professionals and will respect each other’s roles in the team. They both will play a major part in the success of the team and need to be at their best. I am very sure that they will do whatever it takes to ensure that they are successful.
Is the women’s team playing as a team in the last three years?
The team has reached the finals in two major events and a semi-final in the last 3-4 yrs – the ICC Women’s World Cup in 2017, the T20 World Cup 2018, and the T20 World Cup 2020. We have an excellent team and some brilliant talent. The blend of experience and the fearless youngsters makes ours a formidable side. If we prepare appropriately, it’s a matter of time before we win the major ICC events.
Raman has touched upon prima donna culture in women’s cricket?
I have not been that close to the team to know about it.
No country wants to play Test cricket. How is, playing one Test in Bristol, going to take Indian women’s cricket forward?
All players would love to play Test cricket even if it means one Test. Test matches are a real test of skills. At this stage England, Australia and India seem to be keen on playing Test cricket. Although a lot of players, even from the other countries, have shown keen interest in playing Test matches. We have to see how it goes from here on.
From what I know, the ICC is focusing on the ODI and T20 format because that seems the best way to popularise and promote the game throughout the world. There is a debate around women’s Test cricket considering the interests and benefits to various stakeholders – the Boards, broadcasters, spectators, sponsors, etc.
Would you say the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) should have gone out of the way and chosen women as coach of the team and also the full support staff?
We need to have an appropriate and capable person in the respective roles. If we have a woman who is good enough to do the job, I would prefer that. Same is the case for the rest of the support staff.