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It is time we give more support to Indian women’s cricket team, which is breaking barriers every time – where are the big name sponsors?
I am a girl who understands and enjoys watching cricket. I don’t use it as a façade to impress boys.
In a typical Indian household, people never miss watching cricket on the TV. It could be a match between two countries apart from India, Big Bash, Under-19, Women’s cricket, Ranji, IPL, etc. I am extremely thankful to my family for creating an environment where cricket is seen as the sport that it is. Otherwise, I might not have been interested in women’s cricket.
Free Hit: The Story of Women’s Cricket in India (2018) by Suprita Das vehemently speaks about women’s cricket. Das steers us back to the 70s when women began playing cricket, and the sport was colloquially called, Kanyaon ka cricket. She charts the tribulations faced by the players, their foray into the international stage, the uphill climb of the star cricketers, and the current situation.
Das’s book begins with the description of spectacular 171 runs in the World Cup. Like many of us, I realised the presence of women in cricket after the 2017 World Cup.
The girls received complete support from their parents. Only a few families were perturbed about tanning. There was a widespread stigma about young lasses travelling to other cities and countries. The players braved through spins and yorkers that we cannot even imagine today. They didn’t even have role models to take inspiration from.
However, there remained the crisis of finance, for the families as well as the Women’s Cricket Association of India. Paucity of funds had scary spinoffs – no equipment, no regular tournaments, inability to participate in tournaments. This situation continued till the 90s.
The 90s was a time of the pioneering girls. Several girls walked into cricket clubs for the very first time. In these clubs, there was no gender bias. The girls played alongside boys.
As Suprita Das describes this scenario in the book, we get to read the extraordinary journey of Jhulan Goswami and Mithali Raj – the two big names in the sport today. She focuses on how they stepped into playing cricket, and what made them do so.
Irrespective of promising performances, the budget for women’s cricket was always paltry when compared to men’s cricket. It is often argued that men’s cricket gathers a whopping audience while only families and staff show up for women’s matches. Such a comparison is invalid, yet it affects the quality of the matches, for obvious reasons.
For the first time, the Indian women’s team had an oceanic audience. They had astonishing rewards. People who maligned families for supporting their girls were staring at the scoreboard, and extolling the parents. And, the media finally woke up.
Gradually, the women’s team got the support from Railways, Infosys and Star Sports. But, it was not enough. At the national level, women’s cricket continued to be a sideshow to men’s matches. Yet, they never paused. They persevered, and proved their worth, one match at a time.
Today, I don’t know if people appreciate women’s cricket. I don’t know if they think it is the same as men’s cricket. I am even unsure if they foster the sexist notion that girls can’t play cricket.
What I know is that people recognise women’s cricket as a sport now. It’s only going to get better and bigger with more media coverage and facilities. With Mithila Raj’s upcoming biopic, we can definitely expect an entire generation of girls being inspired, and entering the cricket field.
It is easy to blame authorities and organisations for not promoting women’s cricket with the same grandeur with which they see men’s cricket. But, I firmly believe that we, as audience, have an active role in encouraging the sport. When the viewership increases, fame and sponsors will follow.
Moreover, we can begin by encouraging girls around us to play cricket without patronising them. I’ve had my share of jokes that convey watching cricket is a ‘boyish hobby.’ We can change the idea that cricket is a men’s arena. Because, so was everything else until a few decades ago.
Things did change, didn’t they?
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