India is a country where cricket is like a religion and the cricketers have the stature of the superstars. Whenever the team is in action, the whole nation unites leaving behind all the differences. There is a massive interest from the fans towards the game and hardly any seat in the stadiums is left unoccupied where team India plays.
The fans go out of their ways to get a glimpse of their favorite cricketers. On the Twitter or Facebook pages of these Indian cricketers, there are millions of followers, at times, even more than the Bollywood stars. The fan-following in the country for the game is unmatched and it’s here more than any other cricketing nation.
But all the aforementioned hype is only around Men’s cricket. We tend to forget almost every time that there is a Women’s cricket team too that represents the country. Ideally, both the Men’s and Women’s team should be treated equally but does it really happen? Surely not. All the love from the fans is restricted to only Men’s cricket and the female counterparts are left stranded more often than not.
Tremendous talent in Women’s cricket
There is an abundance of cricketers in the Women’s team. The skipper Mithali Raj is second on the list of most runs in ODI cricket, second only to Charlotte Edwards of England. It’s only a matter of time that she reaches the pole position. She is also ranked 2nd in the ICC rankings for ODI batters and number 4 in T20Is.
The fast bowler Jhulan Goswami is the all-time leading wicket-taker in ODIs with 185 scalps to her name. She is also ranked number 3 in the bowlers’ rankings in the format. These 2 are the faces of Indian Women’s cricket. But it’s not limited to just these 2, there are several others who are amongst the best in the business.
Harmanpreet Kaur is an explosive batter who also became the first Indian to play in Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League. Smriti Mandhana has caught the limelights with her superlative run in the Women’s ODI World Cup. The left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht is as good a bowler as any in the world.
Punam Raut, Deepti Sharma, Sushma Verma, Poonam Yadav, the list of talented cricketers is long. These are only the current bunch of players and there have been several in the past too like Anjum Chopra who have made the country proud.
Who is to be blamed?
There is not one person or organization that needs to be pointed the fingers at for the lesser popularity of Women’s cricket. The first and the foremost blame needs to go to the BCCI. The Board has been partial to the Men’s cricket for ages and there has been very little effort to promote Women’s cricket.
Whenever Indian Women play at home, they are made to play on the lesser known grounds of the country. Very seldom they get a chance to play in the iconic grounds like the Wankhede or the Eden Gardens. If they are to stand shoulder to shoulder with Men’s cricket, the Board needs to arrange their matches on such grounds.
All the training facilities and the coaching staff of the Women’s team is nowhere close to the Men’s side. A stalwart like Anil Kumble resigns from the post of the head coach and there are other legends who fight for the same spot. Whereas none of these former greats even shows the desire to guide the Women’s team.
The broadcasters are at fault too. Before every series of the Men’s team, they do everything to promote it and attract the viewers. But the same is missing when the Women’s team is on show. The fans often don’t even know that the team is playing. In the ongoing Women’s World Cup, the fans were denied of the classy hundred of Smriti Mandhana against West Indies because it wasn’t even telecasted. Such a shame!
Are we the fans guilty too?
The answer to the question is a big yes. It’s true that we don’t get to see the Women in action due to lack of coverage of their matches but do we put in enough efforts to watch them whenever the matches are telecasted? The viewership of Women’s cricket is far below as compared to Men’s cricket.
We also often tend to commit the mistake of comparing the 2 versions of the game which is horribly wrong. A lot of viewers can be seen commenting that a woman fast bowler bowls at a gentle pace of 110 kph and she would be thrashed all over the park by a male cricketer. But that’s never going to happen. Why can’t we accept the game for how it is?
It’s highly improbable for a female cricketer to bowl like Mitchell Starc because the two games are completely different.
What can be done?
The first step needs to come from the BCCI. Indian Women’s cricket needs to be put on the world map and there is a long way to go. The Indian Board needs to learn from the Australian Board. Along with the Men’s Big Bash T20 League, they organize the same tournament for the Women as well and the matches happen in the same day so that the spectators are in equal in number for both of them. India has it’s very own IPL so why can’t we have a Women’s IPL along with that?
The training facilities and the support staff need to get better immensely. BCCI needs to involve the former cricketers to help the Women cricketers grow. Everything that is done for the Men’s team, needs to be done for the Women’s counterparts too.
The broadcasters can’t keep doing the same mistake of ignoring the matches Indian Women’s team anymore. There should be a telecast of every single match that the team plays and the build up should be the same as the Men’s team.
All said and done, the fans need to pour the same amount of love to someone like Mithali Raj as they do for Virat Kohli. We need to stop the comparison between the two teams and accept the fact that the rules and the format might be the same, but the manner in which the 2 are played, is completely different.