Former India women’s cricket team captain Anjum Chopra was part of the newly-formed 12- member panel that recently decided the national sports awards for athletes, players and coaches.

A player of six World Cups (four 50-overs and two T-20s), she is a pioneer of women’s cricket in India. She has held various records during her career, and is also the first woman player to play 100 ODIs for India. Currently, she is working as a commentator, and is gearing up for another long season.

In an interview with NAKSHATRA PAIN, she opened up about the current scenario in women’s cricket, her wish to have been part of cricket leagues that have taken the cricketing world by storm, the potential of the current squad and what she sees as the future for the sport that made her a legend in her own right.

Excerpts:

Q: What is the agenda of this panel that decided on the national sports awards?

A: This was the first time I was in a panel and attending meetings of this sort. The ministry has changed. Earlier there used to be more than one committee deciding these awards, and this is just one committee that is deciding all the awards. All I can say is, we are not meeting to change anything. We are meeting to select the best and the most deserving sportsperson for these coveted awards. My understanding there is pretty clear.

Q: Current players like Harmanpreet Kaur have gone on to play in tournaments like the Big Bash (in Australia), and there is a lot more attention on women’s cricket now. What is your take on this?

A: It is a very good thing. My job is to encourage players. I am not playing now, but I know exactly how much encouragement players need. My good wishes are always with them. I think it’s great that more and more leagues are coming up. There are opportunities to play at the international level and to rub shoulders with international players as well. I think it’s a brilliant exposure. As a player, you want to play a lot of competitive cricket throughout the year and it’s fortunate that the players are getting to play that.

Q: So you would agree that there are more opportunities for women cricketers now than when you were playing?

A: Absolutely. Not just for the girls, but also for the boys. And there will be even more opportunities as time progresses. Cricket is only expanding. So there will be more opportunities. I wish I had the chance of playing all these tournaments during my playing days. Somebody was saying I should have been from this era! I really wished that I had played in the 2013 World Cup as well.

Q: Looking at the current India cricket teams, are there any areas of improvement you would suggest?

A: Well, as a player, you should always try to get better and better each day. In cricket, there are so many facets like batting, bowling, fielding, fitness, agility, etc., that contribute towards a player becoming better. Say, if someone has scored a hundred, obviously that person will try to score more than that, and if someone has not scored a hundred, then that person will reach that figure as quickly as possible. So, you are always trying to become better at it. I would say it is a learning process and you should always try and do better than your previous game. That’s what I tried to do when I was a player; to become better every time I went out to play.

Q: What is your opinion regarding the current women’s team? Do you think they have the potential to win the next world cup?

A: The potential is of course there, which is why they are playing for the country. But that potential needs to transform into performance. And when that happens, they will become world champions.

Q: Do you see a day when women’s cricket in India would be at par with men’s cricket in terms of popularity?

A: Yes, why not? In how much time, we don’t know. It’s always a possibility and we should definitely hope for it. And if that happens sooner rather than later, we will all be rejoicing. It’s only a question of when it will happen.

Q: What are your plans now? Would you always want to stay involved with cricket?

A: Absolutely. I am just planning for the forthcoming season, because it is going to start by the end of this month. The season continues till about May and so, it is a long season. It is an exciting time for women’s cricket, because there is going to be a tour of South Africa. Leading on, there would be a lot of domestic cricket. So, yes, I plan to stay involved as a commentator and stay busy each day of the season.