narayan devanathan

Mar 10, 2020

3 min read

The Ordinary Potential of the T20 World Cup Final

In the second week of March 2017, I was on what was then the world’s longest nonstop flight: San Francisco to Delhi. But that was not what was special about that flight. What was extraordinary was that the entire flight crew — from the commanding officer and the co-pilot to every single member of the cabin crew — was comprised of women.

I remember two things struck me then.

The first: I wished it was not extraordinary — out of the ordinary, as the word literally means — that flight crew was all-women.

The second: I felt happy to be in such good hands.

On March 8, 2020, I was again on another journey — this time even more momentous, with millions more alongside me. It was another dream that took flight, and it was again commandeered by an all-women crew.

This time around, it felt like we had moved closer to it not being extraordinary — and I mean that in a good way.

And again, I felt happy and proud — we couldn’t be in better hands.

In the hands of a 16-year-old who probably had one of the worst days of her 16-year-old life.

In the hands of a 31-year-old who probably didn’t have the birthday that she would have wished for.

In the hands of a winner — who came out firing on all cylinders — who was not identified by her husband or her father, each famous in their own right.

In the hands of a singer — some months pregnant — who had no clue about the specific context in which she was performing.

It’s these and 19 other women — in the midst of 85,000 people who came out to roar their appreciation in a cauldron called the MCG that until then was not too well-known outside of the world of cricket — who pushed some boundaries.

Alyssa Healy didn’t just figuratively push the boundaries. With her big-hitting capabilities, she pushed for the boundaries to be pushed farther out, like in the men’s game.

Before she “dropped the cup” when she dropped a dolly from Alyssa Healy in the very first over the Aussie innings, before she got out without bothering the scorers too much in her first batting failure of the tournament, Shafali Varma had burst to the top of the ICC T20 batting rankings within a year of making her debut as a 15-year-old.

Before she rounded off her birthday by applauding Meg Lanning, the winning captain, Harmanpreet Kaur had wrought about a significant change in vocabulary with her swashbuckling batting. No one was calling her or anyone else the “Sehwag” or the “Tendulkar” of women’s cricket.

Together, these 22 women had pushed a few other significant boundaries.

They had pushed people to follow the game enough to feel bitter disappointment, anger, grief at the loss of the Indian team in the 2020 T20 World Cup Final.

They had pushed advertisers — the ones who have no qualms about placing their money even on men’s games featuring Germany and Iceland (no offence to either of them — they’re among the nicest men’s teams on the planet) — to fill every available slot on the main broadcaster’s telecast in India — where patriarchy and capitalism are unlikely but very real cronies.

There’s a lot more progress to be made.

Commentators and cricket writers — used to a default of batsmen and unused to the idea of batswomen — have been forced to adopt the more gender-netural batter.

More progress will be when either they get comfortable referring to players in the women’s game as batswomen, or they start referring to players in the men’s game too as batters.

More progress will be made when it won’t matter if women officiate in men’s matches.

More progress will be made when it won’t matter if women coach the men’s teams.

More progress will be made when the extraordinary part of the game is only about the feats accomplished in the game, when what happens outside of a women’s game is as ordinary as what happens outside of a men’s game.

And we will make more progress.

Because it wasn’t just those 22 women on the ground at the MCG who showed how far they had come.

They showed us all how far we’ve come.

And how much farther we can go.