Women’s WC: Team India not that far away from winning big one, says Ravi Shastri

Dubai [UAE], February 12 (ANI): Former Indian coach Ravi Shastri was thrilled to see his country claim the inaugural ICC Women’s Under-19 T20 World Cup last month and believes the victory could help the senior team to glory at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.

India and Pakistan will meet in a huge opening weekend fixture at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 on Sunday.

Neighbours and Group 2 rivals Pakistan and India will get their respective World Cup campaigns underway in a high-profile encounter on Sunday in Cape Town.

Speaking on the latest episode of ICC Review Shastri said he was over the moon when Shafali Verma-led Indian U-19 team clinched a seven-wicket victory over England in the Under-19 final last month.

While India’s senior team have yet to taste success in seven editions of the Women’s T20 World Cup, they came close the last time the tournament took place when they fell to tournament hosts Australia in the final in 2020.

But Shastri thinks the pendulum is starting to swing and that India can match the exploits of their Under-19 counterparts and taste success at the T20 World Cup in South Africa.

"I’ve always said the biggest thing that’s going to happen in women’s cricket, and the women’s team is (not) that far away. I’ve kept saying it for the last six, eight months (India’s women’s team) are not that far away from winning a big one. They’ve threatened, they’ve reached finals, they’ve lost some close games, but they’re there," Shastri said in ICC Review.

The 1983 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup victory for India, under the captaincy of legendary Kapil Dev, was a turning point for cricket in India, according to Shastri who played a key role in the triumph.

Shastri believes that if Harmanpreet Kaur’s team rises to the challenge and captures its first T20 World Cup in South Africa this month, there might be a comparable uptick in interest in women’s cricket.

"I know what happened in ‘83, when we won the World Cup, it opened up a Pandora’s Box," said Shastri, who represented the national team in 80 Tests and 150 ODIs between 1981 and 1992.

"The whole look at the game changed, you know, the way players were perceived, the way the game was perceived, the way people wanted. To pack the system, the way the monetisation of the sport changed overnight," he added.

"I see that happening with the women’s cricket. Now, under-19 is just a step. It was fabulous to see the way the young girls played, and won. And, especially the final, to beat a team like England, bowl them out for 68 and then do the job was an outstanding achievement and that spurred a lot of young cricketers to take the sport," the former India coach said.

The victorious India U19 team was felicitated by The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) following the completion of the third India vs New Zealand Men’s T20I in Ahmedabad last week, with legendary Sachin Tendulkar gracing the event.

Shafali, who amassed 172 runs at a remarkable strike rate of 193.26 during the U-19 Women’s World Cup, received special praise from Shastri, who also referred to the upcoming inaugural season of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) in India as a "stepping stone" for future female cricketers.

"I was in Ahmedabad now during the last game when they were felicitated. And you could see the spark, the smiles on their faces, the energy. Shafali, she can play for as long as she wants. It looks like, I mean, she still looks so young. She can keep playing for another 10 years or so," he said.

"So, I see great things happening for women’s cricket. The IPL has started now, which would again be a stepping stone and a platform for a lot of young girls to showcase their talent. I think it’s the next big thing. You win a World Cup, a Women’s World Cup. What’s the fun?" Shastri said. (ANI)