Do you know a World Cup is about to begin?
Until you walk right up to the gates of the Cricket Club of India, you would have no idea that the ICC Women's World Cup was taking place in Mumbai. There's no event branding or advertising in the Colaba district of the city where the teams are staying, or along Marine Drive, which sweeps along the seafront just yards from the charming Brabourne stadium. Upon arrival in Sri Lanka for the recent ICC World T20 you could not fail to realise a major sporting event was taking place. There are none of the life size cardboard cut-outs of players that adorned roundabouts in Colombo and Galle, and lined the arrivals hall of Colombo airport.
The budget for this tournament presumably doesn't stretch that far, which highlights the benefit to the women of having their World T20 staged alongside the men's event and being able to piggyback off the marketing. The most glaring advert that a match is taking place will be when the floodlights are switched on for the opening day-nighter between India and West Indies, hopefully tempting a few more curious locals to take advantage of the free entry to support their team at the ground that is deliciously tucked in amongst tree lined streets and residential flats.
India captain Mithali Raj didn’t want to be drawn into any sort of negative debate on the eve of the World Cup when I put to her the comments about the BCCI made by former captain Diana Edulji to ESPNcricinfo. One aspect of Edulji’s remarks that she did seem to agree with though, was that women should play more Test cricket. India haven’t played a Test since August 2006, when they played a two-match series in England.
“I haven’t read the article but people came and spoke to me about it,” Raj said. “Playing the Test game is very important. As a youngster I played a lot of days-games, which helped to build my temperament. Once you’re a very good Test player you can adapt to T20 or one-day games.”
Would she like to see India play Test matches again? “Yes definitely, because the ultimate challenge is the Test game.” I was intrigued to know just what the India captain’s profile is like in India, after Edulji suggested that Raj, the number one batter in the women’s game, wouldn’t be recognised if she walked into a restaurant in her home country. “I think more often people relate to me by my name. If I get introduced then they’re like, ‘ah, you’re a woman cricketer,’ but because I’m not very often on television people don’t recognise me by my face, but definitely by my name.”
Pakistan are in Group B, and playing their early-stage matches in Cuttack for security reasons. While there have been no reports of trouble during any of their warm-up matches, it was security considerations which led to the Pakistan players being put up in the club house of the Barabati Stadium rather than a hotel in nearby Bhubaneswar, like the other teams. Logistics were also an issue with hotels struggling to accommodate four squads at short notice, but there was also talk about hotels being wary of hosting the Pakistan team. There have been no complaints from players though. One bonus is that Pakistan don't have the hour long journey to the ground and back that the other teams will have to take.
West Indies captain Melissa Aguillera revealed that the team have been practising a dance to rival the men's infamous Gangnam Style celebration that Chris Gayle pioneered during last year's World T20 in Sri Lanka. It had a run out in their recent successful series against South Africa, but all the smiling Aguillera would admit is, "it takes more than one person!" Eight of the West Indies team are contacted to the WICB, meaning Aguillera can let her career, hairdressing, take a back seat for a while, as she is paid to play and receives match fees. She still dabbles in it part time and she laughs infectiously as she admits to often getting requests from team members to help them out with their 'do's'. "I'm always there to deliver!"