Ask Indian cricket fans who is Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Venkatesh Prasad, Harbhajan Singh and you will not only get an answer in positive but a near biography of almost each one of them. Go a little further and ask them who is Jhulan Goswami, Anjum Chopra, Bindeshwari Goyal, Diana Edulji, Mithali Raj you ‘may’ get a “yes, we know who they are” which is sometimes followed by a mocking smile. Others may not even know who they are, forget about knowing their backgrounds and biographies. Why so? If they follow cricket so religiously then why such a prejudice? Religion never discriminates but the followers do. The same is applicable in case of this sport and almost every sport in India.
The real problem lies within our minds that have been tuned to certain specific frequencies and refuse to go beyond that. We all have heard that Cricket is a Gentlemen’s game, so how can women play it? If this wasn’t enough, moving up a bit further one will find that the body regulating Women’s cricket-the BCCI (Board of Cricket Control of India)-is itself discriminatory. There is not a single women representative on the Board since Sharad Pawar’s tenure as its President.
The bias is authenticated by the fact that, after the team’s successful stint in England ODI’s series, the team’s coach Sudha Shah was replaced by KVP Rao just a month before World Twenty20 tournament. KVP Rao had only a month’s experience as a coach. Moreover, the Board thought the team to be perfect enough and thus did not consider it important to conduct any practice matches for them.
The sad reality doesn’t end here. The grounds on which they play are in an equally sorry state (bad condition). They don’t get to play much of the tournaments too, making them all the more invisible in the arena and thus away from the public eye. Former Indian captain and Arjuna awardee Mithali Raj expresses the same concern as she says “We need more matches and longer innings. Players are not getting enough practice and the gaps between matches are far too long.”
The preferential treatment can be seen being meted out by the media too. It may glorify Dhoni’s boys on a win but the same treatment is never given to Jhulan’s girls. In fact, men’s cricket team is equally castigated for the loss of a match but that is a part of the same story and that also keeps them in the public eye. The facts are quite visible here too. Just think- how many times have you seen scores of women’s team matches being flashed on any news channel when the match is in progress? It only further dampens the players’ spirit. In addition to that, how many of you have seen these ladies endorsing a single product on television?
The picture is very saddening on the whole, though there has been a little (please mark my words, a little) improvement in the state of women’s cricket but there is a long road ahead. And this long road can’t be traversed by the players alone. To reach a destination, where these well-deserving ladies get their appropriate due, we all-the people, the media, the government, the Board, the sports fraternity- have to travel with them to make their journey a success!