Indian sportswomen - a tale of true grit (March 8 is International Women’s Day)

March 5th, 2011 - 3:27 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) They refuse to tell sob stories even though most come from humble backgrounds. Women who play cricket, hockey and football for India say they have fire in their bellies and can win the world, with a little more support from corporates, the media and the public.

Most even refuse to be compared with men, who in a patriarchal country like India have an obvious socio-economic advantage.

“Don’t compare us with men; it would be unfair. It is result-oriented; so if you do good work, people will notice you. We get recognition. We get good facilities and we are not struggling hand to mouth,” Anjum Chopra, former captain and present member of the Indian cricket team, told IANS.

The Indian women’s cricket team, which was an independent body, played its first Test match against the West Indies in 1976-77 and 20 years later the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) took it under its umbrella. For two consecutive years, the team was the semifinalist in the ICC World Twenty20 (2009 and 2010) and won the 2008 Asia Cup.

Anjum says they don’t have a sob story to tell; the team is rather looking forward to becoming world champions.

“But, yes, we need more support from corporate houses and the government and backing from the community. The players are very happy with the board coming through. But corporate support means more muscle and money power. If you have corporate support, things get streamlined,” she said.

But she feels challenges will always be there.

“Last year we played 20-odd matches. We are one of the best teams in the world and are now looking forward to being the world champion,” said Anjum who was in the expert panel for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2010.

Women are really shining on the sports firmament after remaining in the shadows of their male counterparts.

The Indian women’s hockey team that first played in 1982 in the Asian Games and won a gold medal is writing another success story. In 2009, it triumphed by winning the second-tier Champions Challenge tournament.

Surinder Kaur, captain of the Indian women’s hockey team, says strong will and bonding help her team in climbing the success ladder.

“The bonding, enthusiasm and unity in our team is our motivational factor and we hit the field with this feeling of unity. Yes, we used to have problems, but for the last five-six years we are not facing problems. We have a job from the railways and when we go abroad we get $35 per day.

“We just need the support of people and the media. If they give us 50 percent of what they give to others, it can take us to greater heights,” Kaur, who is married, told IANS.

She says their families are their support system.

Praising the team, former hockey coach Sandeep Somesh said, “The team has the potential to go a long way. They have fire in their bellies. I feel we should have a sports psychologist and behavioural scientist/expert on the team. It helps a lot.”

The Indian women’s football team also triumphed in the inaugural edition of the SAFF Championship, beating Nepal 1-0 in the title clash last year in December. Player Bem Bem Devi says the win has changed their lives.

“We are getting a lot of encouragement ever since we won the match. Things have really improved. Each player was given Rs.25,000 after we won the SAFF Games in Bangladesh. And now each of us will get Rs.50,000 for winning SAFF Championship,” said Bem Bem.

“Before our SAFF match, an American coach had come to train our coaches in Goa and we got to learn a lot from him. We travel to South Asian countries, but I feel if we get a chance to play with the European team it will help us a lot,” added Ben Ben, who felt more and more girls should join the team.

Her coach, Mohmmad Zabbar, said: “They are all very enthusiastic and ready to do anything for the betterment of the team. We are the best in SAFF. But our team needs more exposure and should have good physique and technique to compete with teams from Russia, Uzbekistan and Japan.”

Both the coaches recommend better camping and practice for them to grow as a team.

Zabbar and Somesh say most of these women come from humble backgrounds, but their grit and will to succeed have set an example for others.

(Arpana can be contacted at arpana.s@ians.in)

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