Rewind to January 2020. Smriti Mandhana, India’s talismanic opener and batting mainstay, was asked about pay parity for male and female cricketers. Her response? That it was “unfair” to ask for equal pay since most of the revenue came from the men’s game.
To put things into perspective, the highest contract given by the BCCI to women cricketers, the grade A contact, has a pay of ₹50 lakhs a year. Which is equal to the pay of a male cricketer – in the lowest C grade contract, that is! The highest contract for men is a whopping ₹7 crore, by comparison.
As a result, we have, in Harmanpreet Kaur, a captain who has led the team to the finals of a world cup and has played a 100 T20Is for the country, and in Smriti, a woman ranked number 1 by the ICC earning the same amount as a Shardul Thakur (who was, at that point of time, in the squad merely as a backup pacer), a Manish Pandey (who has mostly been warming the benches), or a Kedar Jadhav (who isn’t even being picked in the squads any longer!). Fair play, eh?
And now, a year after Smriti sought to justify the BCCI with the revenue argument, the BCCI has shown, yet again, how little the women’s team means to it. Indian women will take to the field on the 7th after an entire year on the sidelines and six months after most women’s teams took to the playing field again!
Going back to what Smriti said, is it really unfair to ask that female cricketers be paid equally for doing the exact same work, putting in the exact same effort and winning exactly as much as their male counterparts?
Why should the cricketers worry about the revenue – isn’t that the marketing and advertising departments’ job? If the cricket officials truly cared for the women’s game, they would have sought ways to increase interest in the women’s game. Revenue has to be created and earned – it doesn’t come from wishing.
Tennis has had separate men’s and women’s tours for decades now. They don’t seem to be grappling with revenue issues! Cricket Australia already pay their women cricketers the same amount as men. But you’re telling me that the BCCI, with its stashes and stashes of wealth, is unable to?
When the youngsters of the men’s game fail to put in good performances, the captains, coaches, and cricket officials rush to tell us that we ought “back our youngsters”. But when 16-year-olds are breaking records in the women’s game, we back these youngsters by giving them minimal game time.
India even resumed its domestic men’s tournaments before it took the time and the energy to get its women’s international players a game! By the time Indian women get back to action on the 7th, the men’s team will have played 8 tests, 3 T20Is and 3 ODIs, while the domestic players will have been through the entire SMAT from start to finish and will be well into the knockouts of the Vijay Hazare cup. It shows clearly where the priorities lie, right?
The ECB and CA have, for years now, had women’s equivalents for their marquee tournaments – namely, the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia and the Women’s T20 Blast in England, and more recently, the Women’s Hundred.
But India, which practically invented the franchise cricket system with the IPL, has waited 14 years and yet always says, stay, not yet, when asked for a Women’s IPL. And to save face, over the past three years, India has taken to organising a sham of a tournament as an “experiment” – the Women’s T20 Challenge.
And strange to say, while ads inundate our TV screens as far as a month before the IPL even begins, I personally haven’t seen a single ad of the Women’s T20 Challenge on TV. Oh well, perhaps I blinked and missed it. Yet, the tournament is hailed as the Women’s IPL. Perhaps somebody could explain to me why or how a 4 game long tournament, completed obscurely like some hush-hush issue, is comparable to the 50-odd game extravaganza of the IPL!
The saying that you have to work twice as hard to get half as far certainly seems appropriate for India’s women’s team.