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After Women’s Cricket World Cup high, time to give Mithali Raj and Co. their due

After India’s stupendous show as the Women’s cricket World Cup, focus should be on improving the remuneration and job opportunities for Mithali Raj and her team

cricket Updated: Jul 25, 2017 23:44 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Women’s Cricket World Cup,ICC Women's World Cup,Indian women's cricket team
India put up brave show at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup but fell short by nine runs in the final against England.(Action Images via Reuters)

With dust slowly settling on a defining ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup for Indian team, few issues need to be addressed to ensure it doesn’t end up being a storm in a teacup.

Media plays a big part. Before this World Cup, women’s cricket didn’t enjoy the most comprehensive coverage either from news agencies or TV. Last year’s World Twenty20 in India saw women play under the sun in front of vacant stands while men enjoyed the evening slots, like an opening act before the main show.

READ | Mithali Raj blames inexperience, panic for Women’s Cricket World Cup final loss

Having prime time TV slots dedicated to this World Cup influenced its success. And of course, India --- cricket’s biggest TV audience --- reaching the final mattered.

Proof of that was in how the BCCI rewarded the players (Rs 50 lakh each) and the support staff (Rs 25 lakh each) for reaching the final. Compared to what it was even a decade ago, the state of affairs in women’s cricket has improved. Top cricketers have annual contracts while insurance, hotel stay and pension schemes --- ranging from Rs 15,000 to Rs 22,000 according to the experience of players --- have been put in place too.

Creating jobs

But not everyone reaches that level. Women cricketers get Rs 3,500 for every day playing a BCCI tournament while men get Rs 10,000 per day. To sustain cricketers at the domestic stage, employment is a necessity. “It is imperative that state governments start providing jobs. Corporate jobs limit cricketers in many ways so it’s not a viable option,” said former India cricketer and selector Mithu Mukherjee.

READ | Women’s World Cup final: Jhulan Goswami stamps class returning to biggest stage

Currently, Railways is the only employer of women cricketers since it’s recognized by the BCCI. “With Air India winding up their team, we need more options so that the cricketers get at least a job,” said Mukherjee.

Making it to the Railways team isn’t easy but there are plenty of privileges that come with employment. “Right now 10 India players from the World Cup squad are employed by Railways. We provide 330 days leave per year so that their progress isn’t hampered,” Rekha Yadav, secretary of the Railway Sports Promotion Board, told Hindustan Times. “But I feel it’s time the parity in pay is looked into,” said Yadav.

Need for more exposure

Both Mukherjee and Yadav point out India need to ride this wave and create avenues for more exposure. “We have to arrange more matches for India A and U-19 teams,” said Mukherjee.

READ | Despite India’s ICC World Cup run, women’s IPL a distant dream

Top teams get almost an equal share of international matches but the likes of Australia score above other nations by having a product like the Women’s Big Bash League. “There are enough cricketers in India. There will be foreigners too. So numbers isn’t an issue if we have a women’s IPL. But we have to do it now,” said Mukherjee.

Biggest question though is whether a women’s IPL can be successful. Yadav feels it will boil down to how it’s marketed. “While it’s different now, the IPL wasn’t a profit-making venture when it started. So it needs to be seen whether a women’s IPL is given that same rope if it happens,” said Yadav.

First Published: Jul 25, 2017 23:10 IST