'Despite ending as runner-ups, I feel that the women's team has won the finals because they have won the hearts of the entire country.'
Sports Minister Vijay Goel on Thursday felicitated the Indian women's cricket team for its spectacular performance in the ICC World Cup, saying this will inspire the country's youth to take up sports as a career option.
India lost to hosts England by nine runs in the final of the mega-event at the Lord's after a campaign that forced the entire country to follow and support the women in blue.
"Our women's cricket team has done exceedingly well and any form of appreciation will be less for them. Despite ending as runner-ups, I feel that the women's team has won the finals because they have won the hearts of the entire country," Goel said.
Welcoming the team, Goel said these players have "inspired youths, especially millions of young women across the country to take up sports as a career".
"From Rio Olympics to Paralympics and in games like hockey, wrestling, badminton, and now the splendid performance in the Women's World Cup, Indian women are leading the way in the international sporting arena. The minister said that the message is clear - Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and now Beti Khilao," the ministry said in a statement.
Reiterating Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision to involve youth in sports, Goel said the idea is "Kheloge to Khiloge (Those who play, they shine)" to develop the overall personality of the youth.
He stated that this performance will also inspire India's football team in the upcoming FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
Goel said the ministry's doors are open 24x7 for players and best facilities will be provided to them.
The minister also felicitated the coaches and the support staff for their efforts behind the scene.
Sharing her experience, captain Mithali Raj appreciated the performance of each member of the team and thanked the Pime Minister and Sports Minister for their encouragement.
Star performers Harmanpreet Kaur and Poonam Raut were among the cricketers present on the occasion.
The Indian team was given a rousing reception in Mumbai on Wednesday on its return from London.