Indian Women Cricket – Coming of Age?

Cricket is addressed as a religion in India from the time of yore. The men in blue are perpetually a topic de jour in the Indian subcontinent and the cricket matches bring families together. But recently, Indian Women Cricket too has undergone a tectonic shift, and it was conspicuously notable during the Women’s Cricket World Cup 2017. The women in blue had made the nation proud. They had shown sheer audacity by paving their way up to the finals. An unassailable spirit of aggressive belligerence, palpable petulance, and strong determination was observed in the performance of the team. And it is quite evident looking at the way they have turned out to be victorious rather comprehensively in most of the won matches. The tournament also shined a light on the sensational stars like Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Jhulan Goswami. Ultimately, with all the hard work, Indian Women Cricket team is at number four (which was number eight in 2015), in the ICC Women’s Ranking.

Women in blue had imbued a determined exhilaration in fans by defeating the three-time defending champion Australia. They, unfortunately, couldn’t prove to be victorious in the finale and lost it by a whisker. But overall, they had made an effective impact. They may not have won the cup, but they definitely won the hearts of millions of fans. And it can be said that the tournament would have a personal slice from the history of Indian Women Cricket.

Although the team had gained quite a lot spotlight and made rounds in the public with their performance, the tournament wasn’t considered as ‘important’ as the one played by their male counterparts. There are a lot of things that BCCI still needs to do for the Women Cricket Team. Unlike their Australian counterparts, Indian Women Cricket team doesn’t have a proper support back home, and BCCI needs to learn a lot from Cricket Australia. The Australian Women Cricket is treated same as the men’s team in terms of recognition. Cricket Australia constantly encourages the women cricket team and makes them feel like celebrities. There is also a separate Women Big Bash League, which gains as much attention as the Men Big Bash League. While the talented women cricketers of Indian weren’t approved to play for the league, as BCCI thought that it would impede their focus towards International games.

To make the things even more perilous, BCCI had offered central contracts that were way less than their men counterparts. The contract had an entitlement of INR 15 Lakh per year for A-grade cricketers like Jhulan Goswami, Mithali Raj, Thirush Kamini and Harmanpreet Kaur. The figure is no way near to the enormous INR 1 Crore that the men of the same grade are entitled to. And more so, it is even less than what C-grade members of the men cricket team are paid. Women cricketers are also deprived of the kind of endorsement that men cricketers get. Almost all the men cricketers are indulged in promoting a brand or the other, which is not the case with the women cricketers.

The situation can be improved by taking steps towards the benefit of Indian Women Cricket. BCCI should look to incorporate facilities from the grassroots. It is an easily visible observation that every school has a playground where boys are often seen playing cricket. But seldom has it happened when it comes to a girl, and if it does, it comes as a surprise. The schools in India should have separate facilities for the girls’ cricket team. India has so many cricket academies, but such academies don’t seem to accommodate girls. And that makes them deprived of a proper cricket coaching. India also lacks substantial state and national level tournaments, something like Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy that the men’s team have. All this obviously proves to detrimental to the Indian Women cricket.

Just like the Indian Premier league that attracts the attention of audiences every year, there should be a provision of a similar model for the women. By doing so, BCCI would not only promote the women cricket but they will get better hands-on experience with the international players, especially T20, which has become a ubiquitous phenomenon in the cricket world. Also, BCCI should look to incorporate better publicity campaigns for Women Cricket tournaments, so that they gain the deserved popularity. This is somewhere where the Indian Corporates can also chip in, by getting on board the women cricketers as their brand ambassadors and providing them a platform to gain popularity amongst the Indian masses.

Recently, CSS-Whatmore Center for Cricket in Chennai is looking to propose a plan to BCCI that would lead to the development of Indian Women Cricket. It promises all the necessary facilities and is looking to provide coaching to the aspiring women cricketers too. Considering this fact, one can hope that it would set a precedent towards the development of sports infrastructure for women in India provided BCCI gives the requisite support to this proposal.

The support towards the Indian women cricket would not only bring a progressive change in the sports but would also lead towards women empowerment in India. Also, cricket being the most famous sport in the nation, the development of women cricket would set an example for the other sports in India. It would rather become an impetus for a revolution in the Indian Women Sports in general and see a rise of women sports stars, something that India is in dire need of.