The future is female said Hillary Clinton recently. Even though she lost the US Presidential election to Donald Trump, the truth-value in her statement is high if you look at the strides made by women in various fields hitherto the exclusive domain of men.
Whether the Supreme Court had some inkling of this future, I can’t say. But it couldn’t have done better than including Diana Edulji in the four-member Committee Of Administrators (COA) to ensure recommendations of the Lodha panel are carried out in BCCI.
She has been an iconic figure in cricket since her playing days.
Weaned on the sport from a very young age while growing up in Colaba’s Badhwar Park — her father was a Railways employee — she has been arguably India’s greatest woman cricketer.
From playing with Albees Cricket Club at CCI, not far from her current residence at Cuffe Parade, Diana made rapid progress into the national team and excelled as a left-arm spinner, late order batsman and captain in a career spanning two decades.
“We never got a single naya paisa for playing,’’ she says. “We had to pay from our own pocket for tournaments, sometimes Rs10,000 or more. It was like buying a national blazer, which is a terrible feeling.’’ Her own effort in getting women’s cricket accepted by the administration — more so after retirement — is well documented. There was stiff resistance, but BCCI relented. “Thanks to Sharad Pawar, when he was president.’’
However, disparity in emoluments and facilities given to men and women cricketers remains huge.
“Women get only Rs2,500 per match and a central contract from 2006 which is still meagre. But I don’t want to compare. Being part of BCCI has certainly stabilised things,”she adds. Over the years, I’ve been fascinated by her passion. She follows (all) cricket diligently, and pursues the agenda for women’s cricket. But Diana doesn’t see it as something extraordinary, rather a necessity.
“See, somebody had to stand up for women cricketers. We are not a sports-loving nation, and it is difficult to get benefits for sportspersons unless one is prepared to slog for it. I was not only doing it for cricketers, but also in the Railways, for all sportspersons.”
There was some shock (and consternation too) in cricket circles when Diana’s name featured in the COA. I put that down to Indian cricket’s soothsayers and know-alls being trumped in their predictions rather than objective assessment. It was an off-beat selection no doubt, historian Ramchandra Guha also making the cut with former CAG Vinod Rai and former CEO of IDFC.
But Diana’s triggered most discussion essentially because she is a woman. I must admit to some surprise too (I dare say Diana herself wouldn’t have expected it) only because she was tipped to head the Player’s Association in the revamped BCCI.
In hindsight, her appointment in COA seems inspired. Merits of the others are considerable, but Diana has perhaps the most impressive credentials for the nature of the task ahead. She has been a player of great standing and has a vast body of administrative work in the Railways behind her .
That’s a combination not easily found – even among male cricketers of equal or more experience.Her presence gives the COA insights none of the others . That is crucial.
Expertise at finance and administration is important, but knowing how the game is played and managed is of the essence.
Diana’s relentless battle to get women cricketers their due helped her understand the system, processes.
And having played at the highest level, she would understand cricket’s ethos and players’ mindsets. Of her current assignment Diana says, “There is no animus against anybody. Reform in sport must be in consonance with the spirit, not just letter.”
The challenge for her and COA is how quickly and smoothly the task is completed. The entire cricket world is watching.
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