So the women’s cricket team did India proud, even though they lost the ICC Women’s World Cup final in an absolute anti-climax from a winning position.
Winning or losing is no more part of the game in any sport but – just because it is the women’s game and which could do with some dollop of encouragement at this juncture – we will say ‘well done’. Like we tell a child taking her first steps but stumbles.
But women’s cricket in India has not taken its first steps nor was this team been short on experienced players in the team.
What it has been short of is exposure. That exposure came on Wednesday night on their return home in Mumbai. It rivalled for attention, probably outdid, over Shikhar Dhawan’s 190 and a good start for the Men in Blue against Sri Lanka in the first Test in Galle.
— Annesha Ghosh (@ghosh_annesha) July 26, 2017
Video courtesy Annesha Ghosh / ESPNCricinfo
In the past few days and again on Wednesday, media put the phenomenon of the headline act of the ‘Women in Blue’ to a unanimous verdict: They “caught the imagination” of millions of Indian cricket fans, did “India proud”, etc and how it is “time for BCCI to take note”.
Indeed, it reflects badly on the Indian cricket board who were forced in the first place to keep the show running for the women with pressure from the International Cricket Council. Former ICC chairman N Srinivasan has made his contempt for the women known.
Given he still has a hold in the BCCI and is steering them against the India’s Supreme Court orders to bring accountability in the richest cricket board in the world, his changing stance on women’s cricket is a rare possibility.
But he is not in the driver’s seat and it is not about one man. So there is hope for the women to get their due.
But how realistic can one be on BCCI picking up a long due tab?
Having Diana Edulji on a Court-appointed committee has not helped much either other than the fact that she herself was part of a bunch who benefitted from one-time payments depending on the number of matches played. Indeed she is a pioneer for women’s cricket, and she recused herself from a March 22 meeting when the BCCI approved it, but her lobbying for it was in the works.
Also, buried in a Hindustan Times report, it has emerged that among the six cricketers who were given cheques is her sister Beheroz, who played just one Test for India, and pocketed 15 lakhs.
Even the BCCI’s financial strength comes from the television companies who are driven by TRPs, something that is running in favour for the women – but for a very short phase.
In this moment, they have indeed captured the imagination of India but they still did not win the World Cup; still less in terms of pure achievement to the Pankaj Advanis or Vishwanathan Anands being consistent world champions or even the hockey team of the past.
For the 2007-07 season, the ignored domestic men’s cricket got a fillip because a confluence of situations, such as aspirations of Nimbus to have a cricket channel, ensured TV coverage as supply to cover for the demand.
For the purpose of this article, it is pertinent to note that airtime can be made available provided there is viewership and interest for cricket other than the big-ticket ones. And that was not an initiative purely by the BCCI.
Let us all be practical. Either women’s cricket is just a passing fad or it has potential to develop.
One is inclined for the latter but it will require the spirit of corporate social responsibility of some TV company or government’s helping hand to the state-run Doordarshan channel to build on this phase. And quick, before it fades out.