When you think of Indian women's cricket, there are certain names that pop in your head: Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami. It is because they have shown us that the sport isn't a thing only men can master.
However, there are many women who are still not getting their due. They have all worked really hard in their lives to get where they are and as India fights for a place in the final of the World T20 tournament, we thought it would be a good time to look at the stories of some of them.
1. Radha Yadav
Born prematurely, Radha did not have the best facilities at her disposal when she was growing up. She used to play with boys in her neighbourhood in Baroda, as her father, a vegetable seller toiled hard in Mumbai. She got her big break in T20 World Cup 2018 and got selected for the team again in 2020. Radha now wants her father to come back to Baroda but he is resisting the idea because his job makes him feel worthwhile.
2. Shafali Verma
Hailing from Haryana, this 16-year-old firebrand had no academy where girls could be coached when she was starting out. So she did what had to be done. She cut her hair short and disguised herself as a boy to get training. 7 years later, she is India's star cricketer and possibly the best performer of the tournament. As I write this article, she is currently the youngest Indian - male or female - to become world number 1 in T20Is.
3. Pooja Vastrakar
The youngest of 7 siblings, Pooja lost her mother when she was only 10 years old. Life obviously wasn't easy then, as her father, a former BSNL employee was left alone to take care of the children. Pooja overcame financial and emotional struggles though and got her central contract on basis of just 6 international appearances. What made it tough were injuries that had the potential to end her career before it even started. But not the one to give up, she didn't just return to the team but also improved her performance.
4. Arundhati Reddy
Part of the national cricket team now, Arundhati scored 97/100 in science in her board exams. So the obvious dilemma for her single mother was whether to let her pursue cricket - something she loved - or to ask her to focus on academics. She went with the former and her daughter is now making the entire country proud with her performances.
5. Shikha Pandey
It's tough to find words for Shikha's talent. While most people struggle to be decent at one skill, Shikha has a hundred. Ranked third in her state class 10 boards, Shikha went on to pursue engineering from Goa College of Engineering. After graduating, she was offered jobs by many big companies but she declined them all and later went on to join the Indian Air Force as air traffic controller. All this while, she kept playing cricket, and was so sincere that she ended up joining the national team in 2014. One of the most hard-working players in the team, Shikha was the part of the squad that missed out on the World Cup trophy by 9 runs. Here's hoping she gets to lay her hands on the trophy this time.
6. Veda Krishnamurthy
Hailing from a humble background where her father worked as a cable operator, Veda had to move to Bengaluru from Kadur in Chikkamagaluru district, Karnataka to pursue her dream of becoming a cricketer. She was very young at the time and stayed alone for months before her sister moved to the city to take care of Veda. With her India debut in 2011, family's hard work and sacrifices paid off.
7. Rajeshwari Gayakwad
The road to success was very difficult for Rajeshwari as she lost her father to cardiac arrest the same year she made her debut for India. Life showed her the highest high and lowest low within months but she picked herself up and kept moving. Today, she is a part of the national T20I squad and has a lot to take pride in.
8. Jemimah Rodrigues
An all-rounder in the Indian cricket team, Jemimah also represented Maharashtra in the inter-state tournaments, and that speaks volumes about the kind of talent she is. The second woman to score an ODI double century after Smriti, Jemimah has become one of country's best cricketing talents in just 2 years.
9. Tania Bhatia
The youngest girl to play for Punjab U-19 team at 11 years of age, Tania, the wicket-keeper of the squad, is also the first woman from Chandigarh to play for India. That is impressive to say the least when you consider that she had almost thought of quitting cricket after series of bad performances.
May these women realise their dream of holding the cricket World Cup trophy. All the best, we are already proud of you.