By Pooja Baburaj:
“I had resolved to never set out of my mind in the winter solstice of 2012. Usually my grand awakening from a royal slumber is a sight to behold only after the clock strikes 12 in the noon. The timings are of course subjective to alterations based on the strategies adopted by my mum — a bucket of water indeed works the best. But this time, I made sure I was wide awake at the break of dawn. This time, I was the one prancing about the house sniffing through sweatshirts and sock pairs to identify the clean pairs and smacking black polish over blue sneakers. I slid down the stairs, barely missing a break in my bottoms; sprinted 3000m leapt over the school gates and joined my team members who were in the process of performing warm-ups. My sweat froze over my skin but the excitement of what was to follow put me in the heat. The girls’ cricket team was ready to go; we chattered ecstatically & laughed hysterically as we put on our gear. The jersey, the breeze and a slow—mo – we strode in ‘tashan-shtyle’ into the pitch which was anticipated to be filled with the cricket frenzy citizens of India. I had previously estimated nearly 500 pairs of eyes to be set on me as I played my debut shot. Unfortunately, all I could see was my mum holding up a placard that said ‘My daughter is no. 1’. A few other parents, teacher and friends filled up 60 of the 500 seats of the local stadium.” — Diary of a young (female) cricketer
The above excerpt is undoubtedly universal and unquestionably omnipresent in nature — in the company of certain minor exceptions like a different cast of women and more or less drama involved. The near-invisible preparation for the upcoming women’s cricket World Cup in Mumbai is the latest in the records. A scanty, paltry $3.5 million that has been budgeted for the event exemplifies the apathy that continues to plague the women’s game. The men’s cricket, which always gets to picnic on the greener grass and bask in a daily dose of sunshine, had a world cup with a budget of $160 million. Another notable variation is the nonexistence of heavy promotions held months in advance with some of the most popular faces of the silver screen hopping and squatting to catchy jingles. The dearth of interest in what is a marquee event for women cricketers betrays the game’s patriarchal moorings. For women’s cricket to break through the glass ceiling weighing them in, governing bodies of the game have to do much more in terms of funding and publicity.
Cricket moguls argue that the game is governed by market forces and that the women’s game basically lack commercial value. It is true that modern-day cricket owes its sensation and success to TV viewership and broadcasting revenues. But one cannot simply conclude that the women’s game doesn’t have commercial potential unless one has invested in it. While the BCCI has no drought of funds, its failure to develop the women’s game is of a part of its pack of general malfunctions in nurturing cricket at the grass roots of the nation. “That’s why it’s unable to find sufficient talent to replace ageing greats even for the men’s cricketing team.” — The National.
The solution is straightforward – It needs to invest much more in base-level infrastructure so that young girls, like young boys, can see cricket as a viable career option. Women in badminton and tennis have a very large fan-following, and there’s no absolutely reason why things should be significantly diverse for women’s cricket if marketed well enough. Given the fanaticism of the game in the Indian subcontinent, the BCCI should take the lead in promoting the Indian women’s team — considering their incredibly impressive records which include ranking 1 in all formats. How about getting the women’s cricket team to endorse Pepsi along with Dhoni and his blue men for a start?