Ever since it all began, cricket has been marked as a man’s game with a firm stamp. The macho game all but put up a ‘No- entry for women sign’. But men playing by themselves is one thing; forbidding women to play is entirely another. Women have never taken the word ‘No’ at face value. While measuring up recipes with their cups, kneading and rolling the dough with their rolling pins and flipping their pancakes with their spatula, they made up their minds to make their foray into this ‘no- entry zone’. From spatula to bat, thus began the innings!
This road for women cricketers has not been easy and still continues to be difficult. For reasons unfathomable, women’s cricket has still not been taken seriously by cricket playing countries. Some reasons point out to being cultural and some financial. A comparative study of various parameters reveals these inconsistencies when it comes to women cricket.
The game of cricket when pitted against games such as tennis, fares lower on the popularity chart for women. Albeit countries like England, Australia, New Zealand has some very strong women cricket players, India is considered to have some of the best ones. The four teams have always been found to be far too good for other teams. In recent years though, West Indies and South Africa are building some strong women cricketers and found to be winning matches. So women’s cricket has tough competition at the upper levels just like men’s do.
But India has far to go in acknowledging their women cricket’s worth. Player Sania Mirza for instance, is well known and extremely popular despite the fact she has never won a Grand slam tournament in singles or even been beyond the fourth round. Her highest achievement is in the doubles where she became world number one obtaining the numero uno ranking along with her Swiss partner Martina Hingis. On the other hand, Mithali Raj and her achievements run a long list. She was ranked as world’s number one ODI bats(wo)man and now holds the fourth position. She has been number 1 in T20 cricket too and is currently in the number 3 position. Her test batting average is 52, in ODI it is 47 and in T20 it is 34. And above all she is from a cricket obsessed country but yet does not even come close to the popularity and adulation that Sania Mirza enjoys.
If Mithali Raj had been a tennis player, she would have enjoyed more popularity but if she had been a male cricketer she would have enjoyed high media coverage and publicity, had a higher bank balance, drawn a considerable number of sponsors and wallowed in a host of privileges.
Yes, women cricket is one of the games where the biggest disparities in prize money are found, the other sports being football, golf, snooker and squash. Statistics point out that a staggering 30% of sports reward men more highly than women. But there is good news too. The ICC is making a more holistic approach to ensure that women’s cricket grows overall. There has been more funding bringing in investments almost 12 folds and the money is being spent on developing the game in terms of media coverage and public participation. Let us hope this path in women’s cricket is headed in the right direction.
The gap that this disproportion has needs to be closed or at the least, narrowed. One way to go about it will be with wider media coverage of the game. Whatever finesse they have developed and however exciting their game has turned out to be, women’s cricket will not get its due, unless it can draw really big audiences and get as much media coverage as men’s cricket garners. Watching the game on TV live by cricket fans of hundreds of countries will do wonders for the morale and the standard improves with the thought that women’s cricket is getting global audiences and recognition. This gender balance is long overdue.
I speak for all women and non-gender biased men. Hearty wishes that the spatula dishes out many successful innings!