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Only Men’s Cricket Is A Religion in India

As cliché as it may sound but cricket is considered to be a religion in India and cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli have almost obtained the status of demi-god across the country. The country is crazy about them, everything from their matches and tours to their private lives finds its way to social media. But it seems our love for cricket is selective when it comes to women cricketers. The women cricket team not just lack this idolization but is devoid of coverage of their ongoing matches and achievements.

How many of you are aware of the ongoing ODI between the Indian and South African Women Cricket Team in Lucknow? or Mithali Raj becoming the first Indian woman to score 10,000 international runs? Not many, I suppose. Well, you are not alone in this league of selective appreciation of a largely followed sport, there is a whole tribe of ignorance behind you. 

Flashback Of The Women in Blue: The origin of Women’s Cricket in India

India’s first Women’s Cricket Club was started by a Parsi lady Aloo Bamjee in South Bombay (Mumbai) — ‘The Albees. Diana Eduljee was one of the popular faces in the club. Simultaneously, in Sion, Mumbai, along with Nutan Gavaskar, Neeta Telang and other girls started Indian Gymkhana.

Another gang of three classmates Fowzieh Khalili, Sudha Shah and Susan Itticheria started playing cricket after being awestruck during England’s tour of India in 1972–73, where they went to watch Fowzieh Khalili, Sudha Shah and Susan Itticheria.

The flames across the country found a direction and all these initiative collectively led to the foundation of Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) by Mahendra Kumar Sharma and the association was registered under Societies Act of Lucknow. The first tournament was ‘National Ladies Cricket Championship’, where Bombay defeated Maharashtra by 10 wickets in the final. Sharma endeavored to get International affiliation and finally got the affiliation in 1975. After the affiliation, the association determined to invite an international team and the Australia U-25 team visited India for a series. After playing some series against New Zealand and Australia, Mahendra took the responsibility to host the Women’s World Cup in India in 1978

The scenario of Women’s Cricket hasn’t changed much. From 1978–1982 World Cup, India didn’t play International games apart from England tour in 1981. Poor management and administration limited the women’s cricket team from flourishing. Lack of funds compelled the players to raise funds for the 1982 World Cup. India’s first ODI win came in the 1982 World Cup which was cornered as smoothly as it is done today. Contrary to that nobody can forget the Indian’s Men Cricket team lifting its first world cup in 1983. The nation was filled with festivity. However, the crisis was such for the women cricketers that the lack of interest in Women’s Cricket resulted in their way to progress and such were the conditions that WCIA were not able to send the  team to the 1988 World Cup. 

The 90’s brought a fresh wave of enthusisam in the team with as a whole new bunch of players made their debut — Anju Jain, Purnima Rau, Mamatha Maben, Neetu David, Anjum Chopra etc.

Many women cricketers have registered their name in history, a few of them are — Anjum Chopra who led the India Women Cricket Team for the first time in 2002 against England and swiped them with the team where the majority of them were debutants. Anjum Chopra is the first Indian player to play 100 ODIs. She has played four 50-over World Cups and two T20 World Cups for India and currently working as a commentator. Next in line is former India player Shubhangi Kulkarni, who was handed over the post of secretary of WCAI had some great vision for the team; Mithali Raj, star cricketer of WCIA who became the first Indian women to score 10,000 international runs, Jhulan Goswami became the first player to take 200 ODI wickets, Harmanpreet Kaur became the first Indian player to score a century in T20 and the list goes on. 

Well, the question which arises is how many of us know or celebrate their victories as much as we do for our men’s cricketer. The remote interesting in women’s cricketer and their subsequent popularity is very evident from their oceans’ gap following on Instagram, where the Men’s cricket team captain Virat Kholi boast a following of 102m, whereas the women’s cricket team captain Mithali Raj has just 1.4M followers. Such popularity play a huge role in defining their role off ground. 

The Women’s Cricket Team has been successful in their revolution by their extraordinary performances and their dedication for the game. It only because of their consistent efforts and hardwork that lead to the BCCI consideration for tournaments like Women’s IPL and an exhibition match was held last year between Supernovas and Trailblazers. Not only are women’s leagues, Big Bash or the Kia super league in England are on a rise, the BCCI was also surprised to see a 20,000 crowd at the final of the exhibition women’s IPL organised earlier this year in Jaipur. In every game, men’s or women’s, we now have a group of women commentators or presenters.

However, there exist many voids. These voids may take a long time to be filled. Despite the growing commercialisation, the attention it deserves lacks heavily. Women get a tenth of the money the men do and the value of central contracts are meagre when compared to those of men. While broadcast has opened up the live streaming of the game, but there is limited commercialisation.  

There are many ways BCCI can popularise the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) in India if it wishes so. The WCAI honorary general secretary Nutan Gavaskar (sister of former cricketer Sunil Gavaskar) who accused the BCCI of step-motherly treatment of women’s cricket suggested an IPL-type league to popularise women’s cricket. Her other suggestions included the government should also promote women’s cricket in rural areas; demanding scholarships for girl cricketers and jobs for woman cricketers. 

These are a few ways the government in association with the BCCI can popularise the sport and encourage many young girls to take up sports as a career. Furthermore, it is high time we recognise and cherish women cricketers and their victories as much as we do for our men cricketers. 

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