Dharoki village in India’s Punjab region is fostering the dreams of girls to play in women’s cricket league and is offering the kind of opportunities that never existed before in India as the girls between the age of 9 to 14 cycle to a makeshift cricket ground amidst the lush green fields of Punjab wearing white athletic uniforms, according to the New York Times.
As easy as it is to dream, it is difficult to fulfill it. To convert it into reality, people have to burn in the sun. You have to get scorched in the sand and you have to make your weaknesses your weapon.
The desire to fulfil this dream was seen in some girls of Dharoki village of Punjab, their ages are small but their goals are as high as the sky. These girls cycle to a makeshift cricket ground every evening amidst the lush green fields of Punjab. they practice for hours every day so that in the coming times they can play for Team India and make India proud all over the world.
Their names and player numbers are printed on the t-shirts of the girls who come to practice in the field. During the game, they wear their names and numbers on their backs, their hair tied in long, neat braids. The youngest is 9, the oldest 14.
Gulab Singh Shergill, a police officer by day and their manager, mentors the girls with care and affection. These girls respect and call him “Veera” meaning elder brother in Punjabi. His own daughter is one of the girls.
But without the women, there would be no team and no dream. Shergill’s mother, Harjeet Kaur, is there to comfort the victim till the wailing ends and the girl runs back to the pitch after being struck by the hard cork and leather ball. Through the team’s WhatsApp group, Kamaldeep Kaur, Shergill’s wife, assists in coordinating with the roughly 20 families. His sister, Jasvir Kaur, serves as a kind of physical therapist: facedown stretches for the girl with leg cramps, belly rubs and deep breaths for the 9-year-old who comes for practice after overindulging at a wedding reception.
As per the New York Times, the girls use their daily schedule as an outlet from the monotony of village life. They lay in a circle after every practise, their backs to the grass and their faces to the waning light of the sky. They concentrate in silence for two minutes while they close their eyes.
“What is the village life? You wake up at 5 a.m., bake bread and prepare food and tea — all the housework is for the girls. If you don’t become a player, you will be waking up early all your life until you are old. It will be marriage, and working for your husband, and then it will be for your children,” New York Times quoted Shergill telling the girls.
Talking about if any of the girls make it as professional players, Shergill said, “You will have helpers,” he says with a smile. “You will pick up the phone, ring them, and they will bring you tea.”
If Shergill ever seemed to be peddling a fantasy, that feeling has somewhat subsided.
A stunning event occurred this spring: a brand-new women’s professional cricket league in India began play, marking a more than $500 million wager on female talent in the sport that is by far the most popular in the nation.
The women’s league is based on India’s wildly popular men’s professional cricket league, known as the Indian Premier League, which has clubs that are stocked with elite players from all over the world in addition to a majority of Indian players. The two competitions elevate India to the top professional cricket venue in the world, as per the New York Times.
The men’s Premier League has grown into one of the most profitable sports leagues in the world in just 15 years. Teams that cost $100 million are now worth $1 billion, according to estimates. The money that has been pouring in has been used to develop younger players and upgrade the sport’s lower levels of infrastructure.
Rich investors are currently investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the Women’s Premier League as they recognise an opportunity. That entails providing female athletes with opportunities they have never had before.
In what has long been considered “the gentleman’s game” sends a strong psychological message to hundreds of millions of women and girls. In India, where barely 20% of women are officially working, one of the lowest rates worldwide, gender norms remain inflexible. The gender gap must be reduced if the nation is to reach its full economic potential, according to New York Times.
These days, when the girls and their families in the Punjabi village of Dharoki turn on the TV, open Instagram, or open a newspaper, they see it: cheering female cricket players exhibiting the excitement and swagger once reserved for men.
The majority of the players who have succeeded come from villages and small towns, running and diving on India’s cricket fields one day and appearing in advertisements for luxury automobiles, jewellery, and sunscreen the next. Since one of the most well-known of them, Harmanpreet Kaur, is a local legend from their home state, the girls in Punjab are aware of this.
The women’s league began in Mumbai last month, when Kaur, 34, entered the arena amid pyrotechnics and the cheers of the other four team captains. She has led India’s national squad for several years.
She represents the promise for change in women’s sports at this time
Since there were no girls’ teams in her area, a coach saw Kaur’s talent in high school and allowed her to practise with the boys. This allowed Kaur to rise to the top of cricket. She later said in an interview that he formed a female team around her.
She had to continue hunting for side employment even after she established herself as a staple on the women’s national team. She obtained part-time employment with Indian Railways in Mumbai, a far way from her home. The difference between representing India on a world scale and going back to a junior clerk job at a busy train station was demoralising.
Women’s cricket was ignored until 2006, when India’s sport’s financially robust governing body finally took it under its wing. But the board didn’t start seriously investing in levels of district and state competition for female players until relatively recently, following a string of impressive results by the national women’s team on the world arena.
Cricket analysts claim that the 2017 World Cup in England, when India lost a sad final but Kaur had a breakout performance, was the turning point. One cricket pundit said of Harmanpreet’s performance: “Harmanpreet smacked women’s cricket into lounge rooms.” Her performance was so dominant and garnered so much attention on television and social media.
National team players now have some financial certainty thanks to contracts with the body that governs Indian cricket and initiatives to achieve pay parity for men and women. With the introduction of the women’s professional league, India will now need to cultivate a female talent pool throughout the entire nation.
The girls in the village of Dharoki watched as Kaur led her team to victory after victory in Mumbai, earning acclaim after accolade and tick after tick.
They included two sisters who were both on the cricket team, Naina and Sunaina, who were 13 and 12 years old.
Their mother sweeps the homes of five different families, while their father sweeps the private school in the village. Both of their parents are sweepers. They use a rickety ladder to ascend to their shared one-bedroom on the second level. Only the girls’ bicycles, which they use to commute to school and for practise, are stored downstairs. A portion of their chamber seeps when it rains.
When Women’s Premier League matches were broadcast on television, the sisters would come home from their own cricket practise, change into cosy clothes, and curl up on the bed with their father to watch the action on their tiny television while their mother cooked dinner on the stove on the balcony, as New York Times reported.
The manager of the Dharoki girls’ cricket team, Shergill, made a commitment while standing on the roof of a building traditionally owned and managed by women.
After his father passed away from a heart attack when Shergill was 6 years old, his mother and two sisters raised him while farming their land. After completing his schooling, he assisted with the export of his family’s farm’s harvest while constantly attempting the police entrance exam.
As reported by New York Times, when Harsimrat was 6 years old, he started throwing balls at her on their rooftop. She was his only kid. The number of girls on the rooftop rose when the schools were closed due to the COVID lockdown. The number of balls that fell into the neighbour’s home also increased.
Shergill initially built nets to enclose the roof. Then, three years ago, he set aside a portion of the family’s wheat fields and committed himself to leading the group.
“We don’t know what got under him,” New York Times quoted his sister, Jasvir, saying with a smile.
His wife’s income as a government clerk, along with revenue from the farm, substantially covers the expenses of the home. Shergill spends a large portion of his monthly salary of roughly $600 on meals, fuel, and jerseys and equipment. For the technical instruction, he hires a part-time coach.
He is conscious of the fact that his players have varying financial situations. He gives everyone the same shoes. The batting gear is a communal resource. On travel days, the food in each person’s tiffin is the same. A child doesn’t need to be made fun of for having donated shoes when other kids have shoes that their parents have bought for them.
Shergill and his crew arrived at the Patiala cricket ground early one morning in late March, where recruiters were interviewing potential members of the district’s under-15 team. The girls’ only real opportunity to participate in competitive games and place themselves on the sport’s official radar is through selection to this team.
Three women who had all competed at the state level kept a close eye on everything and took notes. Shergill sat under the shade of a tree and filled out their papers as the girls went through their drills–taking turns hitting and dashing in to demonstrate their bowling skills.
The recruiters informed Shergill that five of his men would probably make the team after the session. (They informed him that seven had been chosen over the phone days later.)
The group walked to a nearby restaurant after the trial. The girls ate their lunch while seated around a large table with their tiffins and water bottles. Then a tiny cake showed up: Jasmin, 12, was celebrating her birthday. Together, the girls sang and shared cake. They then poured out of the restaurant wearing their white uniforms in order to board the bus returning to the hamlet. (ANI)