The Women In Blue Did More Than Play A Game; They Batted Patriarchy

Posted: August 2, 2017

The Indian women in blue did us proud at the recent Women’s Cricket World Cup. And they did it against incredible odds.

I watched glued to my screen that night, the battle by women in blue, at the home of cricket; at the place that has seen tides of emotions, severed dreams and brutal clashes through history. But something was special last night. We were talking of a typical ‘man’s sport’ that 22 women played with elan, grit and grace.

But what made it as critical as it did, that had my heart pounding with increasing intensity as we inched towards the end? The fact that Indian women had reached a cricket world cup final. This inherently patriarchal country that pins its women down, repressed, is witness to a rebellion that has now found deep roots in our hearts. Something we are beginning to see across our cinema, pop culture, sports and everyday personal and political battles. Every single ball bowled on the pitch by the Indian side, every single stroke that they hit, felt like a blow against patriarchy. Insistent on breaking through, with the sheer force of dreams & the struggle to live our lives the way we choose to.

Women’s sports have never been given the same kind of stature, mentoring, limelight or depth as the men sports have been. Neither have they been given the same encouragement. Girls playing a sport have traditionally been looked at as an aberration, a hobby, sometimes just lucky to have the talent, but always a second fiddle to the glorious men who accomplish the same feat. Talent has been ignored and suffocated under patriarchal expectations of gender differences. But that night, when we saw the form our girls are in, against these odds, and how difficult they made it for the English side to win, indicates critical reality checks, at how inherently unequal our assessment and affection is for players based on their gender, and how the debate on patriarchy can’t be and shouldn’t be kept away from this argument. In a country of limited resources, and just empty marketing campaign lines talking of empowerment of women at policy levels, the achievement of women in sports needs to be appreciated much more. Not just for their incredible feat within the sport itself, but the varied, inevitable struggles they would’ve gone through, to reach where they have. And this isn’t limited to Cricket alone. Look back at all our women sports achievers.

But that night, when we saw the form our girls are in, against these odds, and how difficult they made it for the English side to win, indicates critical reality checks, at how inherently unequal our assessment and affection is for players based on their gender, and how the debate on patriarchy can’t be and shouldn’t be kept away from this argument. In a country of limited resources, and just empty marketing campaign lines talking of empowerment of women at policy levels, the achievement of women in sports needs to be appreciated much more. Not just for their incredible feat within the sport itself, but the varied, inevitable struggles they would’ve gone through, to reach where they have. And this isn’t limited to Cricket alone. Look back at all our women sports achievers.

In a country of limited resources, and just empty marketing campaign lines talking of empowerment of women at policy levels, the achievement of women in sports needs to be appreciated much more. Not just for their incredible feat within the sport itself, but the varied, inevitable struggles they would’ve gone through, to reach where they have. And this isn’t limited to Cricket alone. Look back at all our women sports achievers.

The mind wanders to Chak De India, Dangal, Mary Kom and the less popular, less emphatic, and definitely less deep Dil Bole Hadippa – four popular, mainstream films that have attempted showcasing the travails of women entering four different sports in very different dynamics. Yet, each film unites and reiterates the thread of how difficult it gets in a society like ours to play a sport we love, and are good at. How little girls are handed over dolls, given dreams of marrying a strong prince charming that will slay the dragon to rescue them, how just dainty frocks are meant for them- wrapping expectations of delicacy in muslin cloth. How strong is only a word for hair. How the right woman is the one who is inherently adaptable, and right only so for the male. Women in sports defy these expectations, and every soaring ball as it met a determined hit, reminded me of each of these expectations being scattered to the winds.

Men’s cricket specifically has always enjoyed a pedestalised stance in India. Glorified concepts of masculinity have entwined themselves with force that has taken us to win great matches. And that night, to have women accomplish being in a final and fighting as though their lives depended on it, gave me a special sense of pride. Because they did this despite the glaring inequality. Not being mere women counterparts to the game, but being their own specific identities in every way.

Here is hoping that we win the next World Cup, and every single tournament we play in from now until then. Here is hoping many more little girls pick up the bat, the stick, the racket, the ball, the dust, the gloves and are encouraged when they do so. Here is to sports and women in India. Those, refusing to be repressed. Those, raring to go. And to men who would encourage them, cheer them on, every step of the way, much like in the stadium, last night.

Image of the women in blue via the ICC website where you can follow more on what’s happening in Women’s Cricket.

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Saumya Baijal, is a writer in both English and Hindi. Her stories, poems and articles

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