BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Goa is for the first time witnessing women playing at night and players getting the opportunity to play under floodlights in the Goa Women's Professional League (GWPL). Irrespective of the results of the tournament, as time progresses, the young ladies will learn some nuances of the game.
Cricket, someone once wrote, is a game of criminals because it involves hitting and running, and observing the practice sessions going on at the Goa Cricket Association (GCA) academy ground in Porvorim, women's cricket is closer to elementary schooling.
Goa has been sending teams to BCCI tournaments and has contributed a gem of a player in Shikha Pandey. However, one Shikha is not representative of the talent available in Goa. As the saying goes, the more, the merrier.
Watching the girls practice and watching them perform in just over two sessions, demonstrated what needed to be learnt and what is being learnt and it is obvious this is just the beginning of the best to come.
Girls from the teams participating in the Goa Women Professional League (GWPL) are learning the basics of taking catches; the basics of fielding; the basics of batting thus making all realise that cricket is not just about holding the bat but a synergy of body, mind, bat and ball. And, the girls are picking up the threads.
The Goa Women's Professional League (GWPL) is not just an opportunity for the girls to play under floodlights but a chance to be coached by some fine cricket heads at the disposal of the association.
As one watches the coaching, Lara’s theme from 1965 Dr Zhivago leaves one with the impression that the basics that many of the girls are learning during the GWPL will take many to great heights in time. A beginning now is better than never.
The cricket being played has given many a glimpse of women's cricket beyond the balls bowled by Shikha with outstation players demonstrating good cricket with the bat and the energy and enthusiasm of the youngsters from Goa adding a special rhythm to the music that is a fine accompaniment to the tournament.
If the ladies are being garlanded and asked to go and test themselves against some of the best, the Goan senior players have shown in the recently concluded Ranji Trophy that the best in them can be stirred alive when given the wherewithal to play and this simply means the freedom to enjoy their game.
The Goan team did not qualify for the next round of the Ranji Trophy but they did make Rajasthan and Karnataka run for their money. For the first time, the boys from Goa made Rajasthan and Karnataka – both teams with India players and pedigree in the tournament – wake up and smell the coffee.
The smell was rich and roasted. Putting the two teams against the wall was a big deal and had it not been for the slips against teams least expected, the Goa Ranji team could have ended on a different high.
Losing and winning are part of sports but an approach with a new attitude is the essence of growth and that was visible.
As the seniors are showing promise, the juniors are yet to awaken from the past with the under-19 team – the cradle – yet to pick up their cudgels and show what’s in store for the future.
The Goa under-19 set up is yet to produce a player capable of being part of the Ranji team in the last three years and this is something to worry about. Three years is indicative that something is amiss and introspection is needed.
Playing competitive cricket is a must to break out of mother’s egg and the youngsters in Goa are yet to understand how playing with others will help them improve.
Cricketers of the past used to be paid Rs 5 lakh for a season and they are now paid Rs 16 lakh per season. Sixteen lakhs for a season that runs into four months is big bucks and that could be the reason why our boys shy away from getting out of their cocoon. This mindset needs a course correction.
If not, the GCA might need to intervene. Cricket in Goa is on a different bounce because the ball is now being shuffled by hands that know the game or by hands that once played the game.
A player knows best how to play and what road to pave for further growth of the game and this is the time because the executive committee now consists of many former players.
Also, GCA should look into ways of how performance-based incentives can be offered to players. After all, despite being the root cause of evils, money is everything and incentives will shell out the nothingness that many players are wrapped up in.
The first steps have been firm. For cricket in Goa to go further, the steps need to be steady and consistent and the present committee, as of now, is showing that it has it all.