ON SUNDAY, Savitri Devi, the mother of India’s bowling allrounder Archana, plans to buy a locally made inverter in UP’s Unnao. She doesn’t want her new smartphone — gifted by her daughter — to run out of charge in case there is a power cut during the final of the inaugural ICC Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup.
The junior Indian girls take on England at Potchefstroom in South Africa, and at stake is history in the making — a first-ever ICC title for a women’s team from India. The senior team were runners-up in 2005 and 2017 in the 50-over format, and lost to Australia in the T20 World Cup final in 2020.
In a month when broadcast rights for the Women’s Premier League sold for Rs 951 crore and corporates paid Rs 4,699 crore to own the five teams, a victory for India will be the icing on the cake for women’s cricket – and, of course, a memorable day for parents like Savitri, who lost her husband Shivram in 2007.
“There is no guarantee of electricity in our village tomorrow. Hence, I have collected money to buy an inverter. My daughter is in the team playing the World Cup final and we hope to watch the match on my mobile phone without any interruption,” Savitri told The Indian Express from Ratai Purwa, a village of about 400 residents.
It’s down to two 👀
Who will get their hands on the inaugural ICC Women’s #U19T20WorldCup? 🏆 pic.twitter.com/CDh5IGnAaa
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) January 28, 2023
Before Archana started performing on the cricket field, Devi’s story was one of setbacks. After her husband, she lost her younger son Budhiman to a snake bite six years ago. The same year, Archana was taken under the wings of coach Poonam Gupta and Kapil Pandey, the coach of India men’s star spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
“I worked on our 1-acre farm and sold milk from the two cows we owned to make ends meet. People used to taunt me because I sent Archana away from home to stay in the Kasturba Gandhi Girls School hostel in Ganj Muradabad. Before she got admission there, it was difficult to afford even her daily bus fare of Rs 30. Those who used to taunt me are congratulating me these days,” Savitri said.
Savitri and her elder son Rohit stay in a one-room thatched-roof house. They will stream the final on the first smartphone in the family, gifted by Archana before she left for the World Cup.
Then again, Savitri won’t be the only parent watching the final in anticipation of an India win.
Captain Shafali Verma, now 19, is a prodigy who made her senior team debut at 15. On the eve of this final, she has taken inspiration from her father’s words. “My daughter will get more chances,” her father Sanjeev had said after the loss to Australia in the 2020 T20 World Cup final.
“My father always made me feel like I was the best and that I had everything. So, thank you papa,” Shafali said at the pre-match press conference Saturday. “All those neighbours who came to stop (her from playing cricket), you shooed them away and made me practice. If I win the trophy tomorrow, it’ll be for my father. If he wouldn’t have backed me, I wouldn’t have been here,” Shafali, a hard-hitting batter, said.
When India and England clash in the #U19T20WorldCup final tomorrow, there will be 🎆
Who are you backing❓ pic.twitter.com/4TDZsQjZZJ
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) January 28, 2023
At Raja Ka Taal, 5 km from Firozabad, Guddi Devi never wanted her daughter Sonam Yadav to play cricket. But come Sunday, the entire family, including Sonam’s four sisters and a brother, will follow the final from their home.
Sonam, a 15-year-old left-arm spinner, is the youngest member of the Indian team. Her brother Aman Yadav quit cricket eight years ago and joined the glass factory where his father Mukesh works. “I started working when I turned 18. We needed extra money for the marriage of our sisters. Sonam always had a spark from a very early age. She was a natural athlete. So we wanted her to pursue her dream,” Aman said.
The Under-19 team won all their group games against South Africa, UAE and Scotland by big margins. In the Super Six, however, they suffered a seven-wicket loss to Australia. The team bounced back with a big win against Sri Lanka and outclassed New Zealand in the semifinal by chasing down a target of 108 in 14.2 overs with eight wickets to spare.
England, meanwhile, edged out Australia by three runs in a tense finish in the other semifinal.
India’s first women’s captain Shantha Rangaswamy believes a win Sunday can be the “catalyst” for women’s cricket in the country. “The inaugural U19 World Cup and to be in the finals, it’s the centrestage,” Rangaswamy told The Indian Express. “Indian cricket changed for the better after the 1983 (men’s World Cup) win. Irrespective of the result of tomorrow, it will be a big morale booster for women’s cricket in India.”
(With Pratyush Raj)