Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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How close is Indian cricket towards gender equality? | Cricket News

The last month has been interesting for women’s cricket. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the guardians of cricket, decided to abolish the term ‘batsman’. It was replaced by ‘batter’ in an attempt to bring gender neutrality to the game. Then there was an endearing advertisement from the ’90s which was recreated with roles reversed on the cricket field.
The recent pink-ball Test played by the Indian women’s team in Australia is seen as an attempt to market the Test format in women’s cricket as it’s done in the men’s game.
There has been some conscious movement when it comes to gender equality in the sport. Perhaps, this is a good time to scratch the surface and find out how far Indian cricket has moved on that front.
Pink-ball concept
Former India captain Anjum Chopra believes while the pink ball Test does seem exciting but it’s kind of unfair on the Indian women cricketers to be thrown into deep end when they hardly play any Test matches. “The skills required to play the longer format are different. Most of these players are not used to playing with the red ball and now suddenly they are asked to play with the pink ball. It’s a nice step forward anyway,” she said.
Diana Edulji, a great in Indian women’s cricket and someone who has served as an administrator as part of the Committee of Administrators (CoA), the bottom line is that Test cricket has to be a regular feature in Indian women’s cricket. “If other countries do not want to play Tests, then India, Australia and England should continue to play Tests. More players will come forward. We should go back to when we had the red-ball two-day games,” she opined.
Pay disparity
There has been a lot of talk about the pay disparity between Indian male and female cricketers. However, both Anjum and Diana feel things are not as bad as it seems. There’s movement on that front.
“It’s a good time to be a woman cricketer. I don’t see a female cricketer drawing the same salary as a male cricketer right now. The women’s team needs to continue performing and win a World Cup. It will take time but it will definitely happen,” Anjum reckons.
Diana keeps it very practical. “You can’t equate it with men’s cricket in terms of the marketing value it has. Since BCCI has taken over women’s cricket, there has been a huge jump in pay. They can’t complain they aren’t getting their dues. The players are putting in performances and they are getting recognized for it.”
Infrastructure and gender sensitisation
BCCI has always been guilty of neglecting the needs of women cricketers. Over the past five years things have started to change.
Former India wicketkeeper Saba Karim, who served as BCCI’s general manager from 2018 to 2021, talked about the challenges he faced when he assumed office. “Indian sport is a reflection of Indian society,” Karim states. “What’s important for women’s growth in India is to make them understand that they have their own identity. They can run on their own. We need young girls to get into BCCI’s fold at an early age. Gender sensitization will come into the picture then,” Karim told TOI.
“It was a conscious effort to improve facilities for women. The facilities the boys enjoyed, similar facilities were needed to be given to them. Make cricket stadiums gender friendly including NCA. It was made accessible to girls.
“Even state academies. Ground infrastructure went up. There were a lot of complaints that practice facilities and ground conditions were not up to the mark. The dressing rooms facilities and washrooms needed to be improved,” he added.
According to Karim, a lot of effort needs to be put in by the state association who need to start inter-district cricket and club cricket for women.
A full-fledged Women’s IPL
Anjum believes a full-fledged women’s IPL will bring about gender equality in the sport in the country. “It will not only encourage young girls to take up the sport but it will show a lot of respect for the women’s players. If they start playing in the same stadiums and tournaments as the men, then there will be mutual respect between men and women players,” she opined.
Edulji is all for a separate window even if the board continues with the four-team T20 Challenge. “Firstly, a separate window has to be found for the women’s T20 challenge. Next year, there will be a 10-team IPL. It will be difficult to push in women’s matches. A separate window will give them their space,” she reckoned.
Karim, however, feels gender equality and Women’s IPL are linked at the moment. There’s a lot of work that’s needed to be done. “We need a robust and dynamic domestic structure first. For instance, India has started to play Test cricket. We need to have a domestic multi-day format. IPL whenever it has to happen will happen. It will help in the growth of women’s cricket. At this stage, it is equally important to have a stronger base at the domestic level,” Karim remarked.

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