Two years ago, Neha Kumari did not know much about cricket. On Wednesday, she was part of the Patna team that defeated Purvanchal in the Navin Kishore Sinha Memorial Women's Cricket Tournament.
Seven teams are vying for honours in the third edition of the two-day tournament being held at Miller School grounds. The teams area from Patna, Motihari, Darbhanga, Gopalganj, Rest of Bihar (comprising players from different districts), Uttar Pradesh and Purvanchal. The tournament would provide budding women cricketers from rural areas a chance to showcase their talent.
Neha said a few years ago, she did not know much about cricket, as there was hardly any scope for the game at her village in Darbhanga. She said: "In Darbhanga, many girls play cricket at Nehru Stadium. But owing to the nature of game, which requires stamina, many girls prefer to keep away from the sport."
In the inaugural match, Motihari defeated Uttar Pradesh by 175 runs. Batting first, Motihari scored 207 in their allotted 15 overs. Puja Kumari was the top scorer with 50 off 33 balls, followed by Shalini who made 30.
The visiting team kept losing wickets at regular intervals and ended up making a paltry 32 losing all wickets in 13 overs.
For Motihari, Anjali was the most successful bowler. She took three wickets in as many overs. Purva followed up with a couple of wickets in two overs.
Nineteen year-old Neha said: "Cricket is not a male bastion any more. A large number of girls are coming out to play the game."
Art, culture and youth affairs minister Sukhada Pandey inaugurated the tournament. The majority of players participating are from rural background where cricket is a male-dominated game with girls not allowed to go outside and play the game.
Sukhada said: "There was a time when parents did want their children to take up the game. The stress was on studies. Now, the perception has changed and people can attain fame and by playing." Bankipur BJP MLA and son of late Navin Kishore Prasad Sinha, Nitin Navin said: "The tournament is a tribute to my father. At the same time, it is an attempt to promote cricket among women."
Satish Kumar Raju, the organising secretary of the tournament, said the matches would promote the game in rural areas and encourage women players to take up the game. Raju added that the tournament would provide a platform for women cricket enthusiasts to showcase their talents.