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Women's Cricket

The selection of Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh in India’s Under-19 T20 World Cup squad makes perfect sense

Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 4 minute read

Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh have been picked in India’s 2023 under-19 T20 World Cup squad, with the former also being named captain. The selection of two senior cricketers with a combined experience of 111 senior internationals in age-group cricket has been criticised, but Sarah Waris sees the advantages of the move.

Ever since Verma and Ghosh were named India captain and vice-captain in the inaugural Under-19 T20 World Cup, to be held in South Africa in January, an old quote by Rahul Dravid has been doing the rounds. The words of the former coach of the under-19 men’s team are being used to criticise the BCCI for selecting two experienced players in a tournament, one of whose purposes is to provide youngsters a feel of playing at the highest level.

After guiding India to a World Cup title in 2018, Dravid had said, “It’s never been about the results. This tournament is a lot more than that. It’s a great exposure and experience to be able to play in the Under-19 World Cup. We’ve looked at a completely younger bunch of people. We had players from the last World Cup who would have played this one, but we purposely chose not to pick them because we wanted to give more exposure to some of these young boys who wouldn’t have got it otherwise. And, you know, I think we took those decisions, obviously, not necessarily aiming at this tournament to win this. Just aiming at the bigger picture and trying to sort of work on the bigger picture at this age group level and seeing that we make it a more holistic development for some of these players.”


There phrases “never about the results”, “great exposure and experience”, “aiming at the bigger picture” and “holistic development” back the argument that under-19 cricket lays the foundation for upcoming stars, and that the results at this level are not as relevant as in senior cricket. While one can see Dravid’s point, it is an argument that fits better with the men’s game in India.

In a country where women cricketers still fight for equal opportunities, game time, and revenue, losing is not an option. The senior team has managed to stay afloat despite the secondhand treatment from the board. The nonchalance of broadcasters, who shied away from airing the emotional scenes of Jhulan Goswami’s farewell, and the BCCI, who have found excuses to delay multiple decisions pertaining to growth, comes even after consistent showings by the women’s senior teams.

India Women have entered the finals of three world events since 2017, along with a semi-final appearance at the 2018 T20 World Cup. They also ended Australia’s unbeaten 26-ODI winning streak, won an ODI series against England in the UK and the Asia Cup, and have been involved in two memorable overseas Test draws in England and Australia – all of them since 2021. Given the indifference of the stakeholders despite these clinical displays, one dreads to think of the situation if the results had not been as impressive.

The magnitude of a first world title for any women’s team should not be overlooked. The 1983 World Cup triumph and the 2007 T20 World Cup victory proved to be watershed moments for the sport in the country for the men’s game. Winning a global event in women’s cricket will be a catalyst for unforeseeable change. Interest will increase. The women’s IPL, which has finally been announced for March 2023, will attract more sponsors and fans, helping it to become a revenue-generating enterprise, leading to more financial security for the cricketers.

In other words, a global trophy will matter. And the presence of Verma and Ghosh in the under-19 squad will enhance India’s chances of that.

The effects will trickle down to the grassroots, inspiring women like never before. The domestic structure should improve if more people are drawn to the game. In the long term, it will increase the talent pool, which should silence critics once and for all.

At face value, the inclusion of Verma and Ghosh appears to be a short-term move aimed at winning alone. While that is true, it cannot be denied that the tournament has the potential to change Indian cricket forever. Unlike in men’s cricket, where failures seldom dent progress, the women in India do not have it as easy. For them, results do matter, and it often is a make-or-break situation for them.

Verma and Ghosh are set out to change that.

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