A first-person account of IISc’s women’s cricket tournament
It was a hot Sunday morning in May. Under clear skies that offered little protection against the beating sun, a group of women gathered around at the pavilion in the Gymkhana to discuss strategies. It was the second match of the women’s cricket tournament organised by the IISc cricket club. The team that I was part of, Police, had lost the first match held the day before, by 29 runs. Some fielding lapses had allowed the other team, Chor (meaning thief in Hindi), to rack up the runs needed to win. Naturally, the pressure was on our team to turn the result around on the second day. Various game plans and scenarios were discussed. The team captain was urging us to step up our efforts in the field.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw an email from the IISc cricket club earlier in the month with a call to register for a women’s cricket tournament. The tournament was open to everybody associated with IISc and I registered immediately. I had played cricket in the past just for fun but had never participated in matches of any sort. Having grown up watching the Indian national team play cricket and listening to passionate discussions and commentary among family and friends, it felt great to finally play proper matches. It was also thrilling to be part of IISc’s first women’s cricket tournament, from what I’ve heard.
The morning practice sessions started a couple of weeks before the matches. The men’s cricket club pitched in, giving us tips and advice. Among the registered participants, a few had prior experience of playing cricket, but most were beginners. Although nearly 60 women had registered for the tournament, not many turned up for the practice sessions, probably due to the struggle of managing their course or lab timings. In fact, on a few occasions, we were doubtful about whether there would be enough members to even play the matches. It was quite heartening when many of them confirmed their participation towards the end and at least two teams could be finalised. Due to lack of time to design separate jerseys, both the teams decided to go with the same design. We booked the cricket ground to play two matches – we couldn’t play more matches because the ground was available only for two days. When the teams were being formed, the members wanted names that worked as a pair. After a few rounds of discussion, the names Police and Chor were born.
On the first day, team Police won the toss and chose to field. On the second day, team Chor won the toss and chose to bat. Funnily, on both days, Police ended up chasing Chor.
Shaking the blues
On the second day, having to bowl first, our team walked onto the ground and huddled for a team cheer. Given the first day’s fiasco, there was a lot of pep talk going around. I remembered a cheer slogan I had picked up while playing a frisbee tournament a month before and told my teammates: “No pressure, no diamond.” It hit a chord with them – they looked pumped up, and we set off to start the match.
The batters from the opposition team walked in pumped up too. Although they lost a couple of early wickets, one of their openers continued to hit boundaries to keep the runs flowing. We got a breakthrough in the eighth over, when we finally managed to take her wicket.
In the stipulated 12 overs, team Chor managed to put up 107 runs with a loss of three wickets at the end of their innings. There was indeed an improvement in our fielding and bowling as we restricted them to a lower score, as opposed to the 158 runs they had scored the day before.
Next, the openers from team Police went in to bat, confident that the target was well within reach. We also had to deal with some early blows as we lost two wickets back-to-back in the second over. However, the third wicket partnership remained steady and runs kept coming at a decent pace for a major chunk of the innings, before accelerating towards the end of the stipulated overs.
With team Police needing 14 runs from the last over, the tension was palpable on both sides and even among the audience in the pavilion, which included the chief guests – Dipshikha Chakravortty, Professor at the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology, and Nibedita Rath, an alumna of IISc and Scientific Director, Open Source Pharma Foundation. With quick running between the wickets and a few extras from the bowler, team Police managed to successfully chase team Chor and seize victory by eight wickets.
Wrapping up and moving forward
Having won a match apiece, both teams ended the tournament in high spirits. The players congratulated each other and left the ground, walking towards the pavilion for the post-tournament presentation, chatting away with great camaraderie. There was a pang of disappointment at not being able to play a decider as the cricket ground was booked from the next day for the men’s tournament. Since there was no tiebreaker, team Chor was declared the champions based on the net run rate.
The felicitation ceremony started with the players and cricket club members sharing their experiences of organising and participating in the first women’s tournament. Everybody expressed their joy at how tournaments like this help them to spend time outside their labs and get some relief from academic stress. The chief guests then felicitated the players with medals, trophies and cash prizes for both teams.
Following the ceremony, both teams posed for pictures, after which the players left the ground and gathered again at the Sarvam eatery complex in IISc. While sharing and savouring condiments and snacks, we reminisced about our experiences and perspectives. We also regretted not having had a chance to play a tiebreaker and made up our mind to play more matches once the cricket ground became available, with the same teams. With promises to practise more, and each team issuing a challenge to outdo the other, we dispersed soon after.
After the tournament, some of the women participated in the Independence Cricket Tournament organised in August by the IISc cricket club to commemorate Independence Day. Six teams participated in the tournament, each team consisting of at least two or three women playing along with the men. The tournament was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. Meanwhile, efforts are ongoing to replace the members who finished their courses and left IISc, to resume and keep alive the Police-Chor rivalry.
Neelima Basavaraju is Data Officer at IISc’s Office of Data