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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Women's world cup


A lot has been talked about the men's fifty overs world cup. I have seen lots of articles, blogs and expert comments being made about the tournament with every minute detail being covered about the world cup, but what about the women's world cup? I hardly see any coverage given to it. So, I thought of looking at every world cup that I have been able to follow from 1993 to 2009.

If I look briefly at the history of the tournament, the first world cup was held in 1973 in England which shows that women's world cup started before the men's world cup! England won the first edition of the tournament which was held on a round robin format with England being the only undefeated team. Australia though, proved to be the stronger team in 78, 82 and 88 as they went onto lift the trophy in all three editions of the tournament.

So, now let us look at the 1993 edition of the tournament

It was the first women's world cup that I was able to follow. The 1993 edition of the tournament was held in England. For the first time, as many as eight teams participated in the competition. Teams like Denmark and West Indies played for the first time in a world cup( As far as I know in the past, West Indies didn't compete though, teams like Jamaica and Trinidad perhaps played in one of the tournaments)The international team which tended to depend a lot on the Welsh player, Lynne Thomas and struggled to compete was no more in the competition.

The tournament almost didn't happen because of the lack of funding, but at the last minute, £90,000 grant was got from the foundation of sports and arts and the organisers also got some high profile individual gifts which meant that tournament went ahead as scheduled.

The matches were played at relatively unknown grounds like Collingham, Beckenham, Roehampton, Warrington, Finchampstead, Slough, Ealing though, the match between Australia and West Indies was played at Nevill Ground, Tunbridge Wells( the ground that hosted the famous match between India and Zimbabwe with Kapil dev scoring 175) and the final was played at home of cricket, Lord's.The players encountered problems like England's players were made to roll the pitch at Ealing for the game against Netherlands which was a disgrace!

As far as the format of the tournament was concerned, it was all about eight teams playing against each other once with the best two teams qualifying for the finals. Four points were awarded for a victory, two points for a tie and one point for a no result. The games were played over 60 overs.

Anyway, let us look at some of the better teams in the tournament

As expected, England and Australia were considered as favourites with New Zealand having the team to defeat both. India were the darkhorses of the tournament as they had some good spinners in the side. Newer teams like Netherlands, Ireland( both playing in only their second tournament) West Indies and Denmark were just making up the numbers.

England led by Smithies looked a very strong side. The highest run-getter in test cricket and the run machine, Brittin was always a huge threat to any opposition team. The squad also had batswomen like Barbara Daniels, and Carole Hodges, who was incidentally playing in her last tournament. Jo Chamberlain was a fine bowler, who could also bat, Hodges herself could bowl effective off spin, Smithies too was a fine all-rounder and of course, there was the ever present medium-pacer Clare Taylor.

Australia too looked strong as they had all-rounders like Goss, Broadbent and Calver. Haggett was a fine opener and they also had Clark, who was one of the better batswoman I have seen. Australia also had Fitzpatrick, who was a great quick bowler though, only played three games in that tournament.

New Zealand also had a good side as they had the experienced campaigner and the ever present Hockley opening the batting and Drumm was a fine player in the middle-order. Bowlers like Turner and the off spinner Campbell too were in the side. Illingworth was the captain of the side.

India were improving as a side with the classy spinner Diana Eduijee leading the attack and Rao, Maben as well as Pramila supporting her.

Now let us look at some of the important matches of the tournament

The match between India and England turned out to be a cliffhanger as England made 179 in their alloted 60 overs with Brittin as expected making a superb hundred. For India, the veteran spinner Eduijee came good by taking 4 wickets for just 12 runs, but unfortunately her efforts went in vain as India could only manage 176 runs and lost the game by just three runs. India also bowled well against Australia by restricting them to just 152, but again couldn't chase down the target and with that whatever slim hopes they had of making into the finals went up in smoke.

New Zealand played brilliantly in the round robin phase by defeating all the teams. The big match for them was against England. England bowled superbly to restrict NZ to just 127 with Taylor and Smithies doing the trick. For Kiwis, both their main players, Hockely and Drumm got starts, but couldn't convert it into big scores. NZ though, came back strongly to bowl out England for just 102 and win the match. Brittin for once failed as she made only 14.

Leaving the game against New Zealand and some anxious moments against India, England did well in that tournament with Brittin as expected doing extremely well at top of the order. Hodges too had a very good tournament. Taylor and Smithies were the main bowlers for England in the tournament. It was expected that in the end, the battle for a spot in the finals would be between three teams, Australia, New Zealand and England. New Zealand were beating everyone, so the match between Australia and England became crucial.

In the match between England and Australia, thanks again to the ever consistent Brittin and Hodges, England got to a respectable total of 208 and bowled out Australia for just 165 with Smith taking five wickets. The loss meant that chances of Australia qualifying for the final was almost over as they now had to defeat the all conquering New Zealand team. A team with players like Haggett, Clark, Fitzpatrick, Calver, Goss and co. was expected to reach the final, but for once they didn't as they also lost the important game against New Zealand by getting bowled for just 76. New Zealand cantered to victory without losing a single wicket!

So in the end, the final was played between the all conquering New Zealand and the formidable England team at the home of cricket, Lord's. If anyone can remember that was the year in which England's men's team was getting hammered in the Ashes by Australia, so there was something to cheer about for the home fans as the women's team was doing well in the world cup. The media coverage which was non existent suddenly got a bit more interested and as many as 5000 people saw the final match creating an electric atmosphere. Brittin herself said that she had tears in her eyes after she got a standing ovation from the Lord's crowd.

In the final, Brittin and Hodges, who was playing in her final match did well by getting crucial 40's and Chamberlain played a typical aggressive knock of 38 of just 33 deliveries to help England make 195. The most important factor was, the Kiwis dropped four easy chances including one of Chamberlain.

So, New Zealand had to chase down a target of 196 which at that time wasn't said to be easy in women's game even though they had 60 overs to bat. The task for New Zealand became even more difficult as England fielded brilliantly and got wickets at regular intervals. One of their main players Drumm got out for zero and the day couldn't have got worse for her as she was responsible for two of the drop catches. Hockley tried her best, but some incisive bowling by Taylor, Smithies and co. and backed up by agile fielders meant that England won the match and lifted the coveted trophy as New Zealand were bowled out for just 128!

England won the world cup after a gap of 20 years, but one felt sorry for the Kiwis as they defeated every team in the round robin, but on th big day were disappointing.

So, it was a tournament that nearly didn't take off due to lack of sponsorship, but the credit has to go to the organisers as well as the players for making it a success.

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