The 2017 Women’s World Cup in England is the 11th edition of the tournament, and the ninth one in which India will feature. Wisden India asks former players – some legends, some out of the spotlight, all vital names in Indian women’s cricket history – to look back on an edition they were a part of, and look ahead to the team’s chances this year.
India skipped the 1988 edition of the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, reportedly owing to financial reasons, but were back for the 1993 tournament in England.
Making her debut then was Anju Jain, the opener and wicketkeeper, who would go on to be selector and coach for India Women in the years to come.
With 81 dismissals from 65 One-Day Internationals, Jain is, by far, India’s most successful wicketkeeper. A rigorous training regime, under the tutelage of her father – who since her retirement in 2005 and move to the back room is as involved in coaching her for coaching – kept her in good stead.
Being a selector ‘wasn’t her cup of tea’, she says, but has loved every minute of coaching. Taking some time off a session at a high-performance camp in Bangalore, she spoke to Wisden India about the 1993 campaign.
(Jain, opening the innings in her first ODI, was unbeaten on 84, doing the bulk of the scoring in India’s 155 for 5 v West Indies.)
The dream is to play for your country and making a debut straightaway in the World Cup, that was something amazing. After playing the World Cup with the best in your very first series, you realise the things you can do – it shaped my career. It was a privilege to start playing under Diana di (Edulji).
India in 1993
Standing: Fourth of eight teams
Results: Won by 63 runs v West Indies; lost by seven wickets v Australia; won by 17 runs
v Netherlands; lost by three runs v England; won by four wickets v Ireland; lost by 42 runs v New Zealand; won by nine wickets v Denmark
Best batter: Sandhya Agarwal, 229 runs in seven innings
Best bowler: Diana Edulji, 14 wickets in seven matches
Players: Diana Edulji (capt), Anju Jain (wk), Sandhya Agarwal, Shashi Gupta, Mamta Maben, Purnima Rau, Rajani Venugopal, V Kalpana (wk), Chanderkanta Kaul, Sangita Dabir, Pramila Bhatt, Laya Francis, Sandra Braganza.
The challenges of England
The first thing is the cold you need to get used to. Back then, being a vegetarian, it was only bread and butter for me! I survived the whole series on bread and butter. If you can get some curd or rice somewhere, it’s your lucky day!
We had quite a few close games – it used to rain and the start-stop nature of the games was tricky.
The partnerships with Sandhya Agarwal
(Agarwal, the other opener, finished fourth on the list of runs scored, her 229 runs in seven innings coming at an average of 45.8.)
I am a talkative person, where she (Agarwal) is an introvert. Definitely, when it’s required, she used to be very helpful. When the match was shaping up, she used to give one or two tips – ‘Now we have to rotate the strike more; we have to see this bowler off’ – because she knew the players beforehand, I was playing them first time. But not much of talking with Sandhya di for sure!
The force that was Diana Edulji
(Edulji was India’s best bowler and the tournament’s fourth-highest wicket-taker, her left-arm spin getting her 14 scalps. She and Purnima Rau, also making her ODI debut in the series, took 28 wickets between them.)
It was always very straightforward with Diana di. She’s absolute no nonsense. When it’s not going well, she makes sure you know what is going wrong. If you’re doing well, she makes sure that everybody knows you’ve done your job. Yes, we were a little scared of her, knowing she was a senior player, but she used to make sure everything was okay, that we’ve eaten. I was the baby of the team, so she looked out for me.
Before the tournament, when I played her for the first time, everyone was in awe of her. But we were like school kids, we weren’t bothered, and we played her well. She was really upset we were making runs off her bowling. But immediately after the match she came and said, ‘Well done, well played.’ Then, a few years down the line, she told the press that there were only two batters she was scared of bowling to – one is Purnima Rau, one is Anju Jain. She said those two batters can change the match any time. So that is the ultimate compliment for me.
I used to work with my dad to keep to left-arm spinners. She (Edulji) expects you to collect each and everything from her. That’s her attitude, and it rubbed off on us as well.
The dream cut short
(Jain featured in only the first three matches of the campaign, yet finished second on the run-scorers’ chart, with 130 runs at an average of 65.)
I missed out because I injured my groin. The pitch was wet and I was not used to playing in spikes, so I was playing with rubber strips. In one of the knocks, when I was stepping out, I slipped. After that injury, I really worked hard on my fitness to make sure I didn’t miss a single match because of an injury. I understood the importance of fitness – being a wicketkeeper and opening is more work. So I worked extra hard.
The confidence of this team (for 2017) must be high. It’s a good balance. Sushma (Verma), the senior keeper, is doing well. Nuzhat Parveen is still new, but she will learn. If you want, in conditions like in England, you can learn a lot.