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Indian women’s cricket happy to exist in the shadows of men’s game

Despite the focus on Indian women’s game following their reaching the 2017 cricket World Cup final, the squad is reluctant to cut free of self-imposed shackles.

cricket Updated: Feb 21, 2018 23:59 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, Centurion
India vs South Africa,South Africa vs India,Indian women’s cricket team
On Sunday at the Wanderers, while the men’s first T20 was played before a packed stadium, mostly Indian fans, the women’s game earlier was played before near-empty stands.(Getty Images)

One call sums up why Indian women’s cricket is still deep in the shadows of the men’s game. Any media request to India team manager Tripti Bhattacharya for an interview with the players on the growth of women’s cricket is directed to the men’s team media manager. (India vs South Africa, 2nd T20, highlights)

It is the protocol, says Tripti Bhattacharya. “We’ve to follow it.”

South Africa women have no such restrictions. The decision is made by the media manager. This reluctance exists despite the attention the women’s team has got in the last year or so after Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Veda Krishnamurthy became household names when India stormed into the 2017 World Cup final at Lord’s.

READ | India vs South Africa: Women’s 4th T20 abandoned, Harmanpreet Kaur & Co lead 2-1

Considering that the World Cup final between India and England was watched by over 20,000 people at Lord’s and millions on TV, especially in India, this reticence is odd.

Their last two T20 games make one thing clear -- there aren’t many takers for women’s cricket, particularly in South Africa. Though officials have clubbed the games with men’s fixtures, issuing one ticket for the double-header, stands are empty when women play.

On Sunday at the Wanderers, while the men’s first T20 was played before a packed stadium, mostly Indian fans, the women’s game earlier was played before near-empty stands.

It perhaps showed that despite all the media attention, few Indian fans bother to come for a women’s match. South Africa women’s cricket too faces the same plight.

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After Sunday’s game, South Africa skipper Dane Van Niekerk spoke about how the game is changing. She said a knock like Chloe Tryon’s -- she hit a six that cleared the men’s boundary by some distance -- will bring in a lot of fans. South Africa pace bowler Shabnim Ismail revved up pace, claiming five wickets in Johannesburg.

England, Australia, South Africa, India and Pakistan boards all give central contracts to women players. Though there has been criticism that women get little compared to men, there is a feeling the complaint is unjustified as there isn’t much interest in the women’s game.

The last three women’s games of this series were televised only because they were clubbed with the men’s games.

Karen Smithies, former World Cup-winning England women’s captain, who works here with domestic side Titans, said: “Women’s cricket has improved. I see today’s cricketers have a lot of strength, they are better built. One of the reasons is that they have professional contracts, especially good ones in England and Australia. It allows them to focus on training and practice. I think Indian cricketers have shown talent and potential. All of them need good and hefty contracts to become full-time professionals so they can focus on the game.”

First Published: Feb 21, 2018 23:16 IST