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It has been a World Cup full of drama and surprises, and none more so than Sri Lanka making the Super Sixes at the expense of hosts India. The general feeling seemed to be that Sri Lanka had already had their big win of the tournament. Many journalists and commentators felt that the historic victory over England was a one off and they wouldn't have it in them to repeat it – particularly after suffering such a hefty defeat to West Indies. That was a gross underestimation.
Clare Connor, head of women's cricket at the ECB, and chair of the ICC Women's Committee tweeted, "India about to crash out of the World Cup. Shame for them as hosts and for women's cricket in India. On flip side, SL so impressive."
Sri Lanka women's international cricket spawned out of the euphoria of the men's World Cup win in 1996. A few more sparkling performances in the Super Sixes could lead to a swell of interest there that the game so craves. I would love to know the extent to which Sri Lanka's performances are catching the imagination of the public on the island.
One wonders which way the BCCI will go from here. It is difficult for the women to request greater funding and increased investment after exiting their home World Cup early. Then again, there must be a case for the BCCI to beef up resources to ensure this doesn't happen again. Sri Lanka have benefitted from much improved support from Sri Lanka Cricket in the last couple of years, as I noted in my blog after the England win. India now face the ignominy of having to go through World Cup qualifying in order to even take part in the next tournament in four years time.
England players Holly Colvin, Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt are among a number of players who have taken time out of training at the World Cup to help out with the Room to Read initiative, which is supported by the ICC and aims to increase literacy among disadvantaged children. Whilst the wide, grassy maidans of Mumbai are mostly full of male cricketers at the weekend, it was an all girl group which took part in a training session run by the three players on the outfield at the Cricket Club of India.
The girls all came from slum areas in the Colaba district of Mumbai. Several hailed from the Banjara tribal group – traditionally a nomadic people, who are trying to settle, according to Room to Read state manager Neelima Arvind Naik.
“Most of the girls come from a very very poor background, where the parents are very low wage earners," she told me. "They’re also first generation learners. I’d say 90% of their parents are absolutely illiterate.
“Room to Read works in ten countries. The objective everywhere is to establish a reading habit among children. We work in collaboration with governments to demonstrate how this can be done, by creating a library."
The girls at the CCI all attend Colaba Muncipal Secondary School, and they practised for three days in order to be ready to meet the England players, such was their excitement. They had met some members of the India women's team before but they rarely get the chance to meet players from other countries. However, they told Neelima that their legs felt particularly tired after all the practise because they weren't able to have any rest afterwards.
"The girls all said to me, 'after cricket we had to go home and work, clean vessels, wash clothes and do all the house chores.'"
Neelima says a certain difference is evident in both boys and girls after they have learnt to read.
"Educated children can bring change in the world," she said. "I see a great confidence developing in the girls. In our libraries the kids are completely enveloped in the world of books. It's where they get exposure, not just to the literary world, but to the world outside.
"Naturally the confidence leads to all other areas of their life - their decision making, their academic achievements. So there is a slow impact on all angles of life."
That confidence was evident, as suddenly the girls gathered in a circle and the coaches became the students. Within seconds, Colvin, Beaumont and Wyatt were being taught a dance by the energetic, smiling girls from Mumbai.
Okay, so if you saw a tall girl in a red shirt dancing in the stands with the fans and the drums during the India-Sri Lanka game, it was me. The TV cameras picked me up having a whale of a time between commentary stints, and taking a few pointers on Hindi dance moves from my new found friends. As far as my professional career goes though, I think I'll be sticking to the cricket!
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