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Business News/ Sports / Cricket News/  BCCI's unforgettable decisions that shaped women's cricket in India
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BCCI's unforgettable decisions that shaped women's cricket in India

Indian women's cricket team has been on the upswing for the past decade. In 2017, India made it to the final of the 50-over World Cup
  • India also reached the final of the T20 World Cup in 2020
  • WPL teams captains pose with the trophy during the Women's Premier League's inauguration (PTI)Premium
    WPL teams captains pose with the trophy during the Women's Premier League's inauguration (PTI)

    The clamour for ongoing WPL is growing as women in blues have earned their own fan following because of their commendable performances in the past. Last week, BCCI launched the Women's Premier League--15 years after the men's money-minting IPL game. The inaugural edition of the Women's Premier League (WPL) held on 4 March at DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai, and the final match will be played on 26 March. WPL is touted to be the second richest cricket league in the world even though England is the pioneer of the women's cricket league.

    Gone are the days when cricket was considered a gentleman’s sport, WPL is a breakthrough moment for women’s cricket in India. It is an outcome of a long battle that women cricketers fought for a long time.

    Reema Malhotra, WPL Expert, Sports18 and JioCinema told Mint that with the launch of WPL, more families will push their daughters to play the sport, knowing their futures can be secured. "I believe we will also see cultural change where women cricketers will have the same level of respect and recognition off the field as the male cricketers. We will see a lot more girls playing at stadiums and academies and all these changes are going to shape gender inclusivity in the sport," she added.

    It is a known fact that women players have languished in the shadows of their male counterparts in the cricket world. However, generations spearheaded by Anjum Chopra, Mithali Raj, and Jhulan Goswami, refused to crumble even when they were attacked by misogynist remarks.

    Mahendra Kumar Sharma registered the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) under the Societies Act at Lucknow in 1973 under the Presidentship of Begum Hamida Habibullah. In the same year, the first Women’s inter-state Nationals was held in Pune with three teams participating, namely, Bombay, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh. The later number of teams increased from three to eight. Chandra Tripathi and Pramilabai Chavan are the other two ladies, along with the founder secretary Sharma who played a major role in the initial development of women’s cricket.

    Women in Blue made their ODI debut during the 1978 World Cup. In the same year, the WCAI received the International Women’s Cricket Council (IWCC) Government recognition in 1978.

    Thirty-two years after the WCAI was formed, the women's squad took India into the final of the cricket World Cup in 2005. And, in 2006, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) took over the governance of women’s cricket. Since then, the cricket regulatory body has taken several significant steps to promote gender equality and women's participation in the gentleman's game.

    "We need to applaud the work and effort put in by BCCI. BCCI has worked relentlessly hard to get cricket to the level of popularity it has in India and has started off on a strong note with the women’s discipline as well. – BCCI has left no stones unturned to ensure women’s cricket in India has a sustainable and glorious future," Vinit Karnik, Head – sports, esports, and entertainment, GroupM South Asia said.

    Last year, the BCCI announced implementing a pay equity policy for its contracted women cricketers. In 2022, India also hosted the Women’s T20 Challenge. Moreover, in 2025 India will be hosting the 50-over Women’s ICC World Cup.

    "Women's game has travelled a long journey. It is about the last 45 years how our seniors used to play cricket and then today's generation especially looking at the under-19 players who have just come off the U-19 World Cup and straightaway into franchise league, rubbing shoulders with international players. It shows the advancement, growth, transformation that has happened in women's game," former India Women's cricket captain Anjum Chopra told Mint.

    Anjum Chopra, former cricketer and current cricket commentator
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    Anjum Chopra, former cricketer and current cricket commentator

    Speaking about the transformation from domestic training sessions to international matches, Ridhima Pathak, WPL Anchor, Sports18, and JioCinema said, "Back in the day many of the senior players would tell you that they were playing for the love of the sport and that is why everything they paid for was from their pockets- be it travel, stay, nutrition, and more. That has drastically changed now in domestic cricket and it is treated equivalent to men’s cricket where the teams can play and train at the same grounds as the domestic men’s side, stay at five-star hotels, and have their nutrition taken care of".

    Pathak added that BCCI's decision to rope in more professional coaches and staff is another big change. And, BCCI's approval of Harmanpreet Kaur's demand for a sports psychologist was another landmark decision that became a crucial factor in terms of the mental strength of women playing at the international level, she added.

    Vishal Yadav Founder & CEO of Female Cricket said that BCCI has slowly and steadily taken steps to reduce the gender gap in cricket. For instance, "effort to increase the number of matches (inter-zonal tournaments) for domestic women cricketers. It has also equaled the match fees earned by international women cricketers with that of their male counterparts". "India became the fourth country to have an equal pay policy after Australia, New Zealand, and England," Yadav added.

    On the introduction of WPL, Yadav said that "In next 3-4 years, we could see a drastic change in the quality of women's cricket happening not just in India, but across the globe".

    Undoubtedly, the Indian women's cricket team has been on the upswing for the past decade. In 2017, India made it to the final of the 50-over World Cup. India also reached the final of the T20 World Cup in 2020. The Indian women's cricket team created history by winning the maiden silver medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. And, in January this year, India won the inaugural Under-19 women’s cricket World Cup. Now, the Tata WPL is another feather on the cap of Indian women cricketers.

    Karnik believes that the Tata WPL is the next big thing that will shape the future the women's cricket in India. Citing three reasons, Karnik said that WPL will provide a platform for women cricketers to showcase their talent and skills and win over a loyal fan base. The platform may spark off a chain reaction starting with female cricketers attracting more personal endorsements and increasing their ‘air time’. Secondly, the WPL will catalyse the development of young talent in the country and around the cricketing world. "It (WPL) will catalyse the development of young talent in the country and around the cricketing world," he added. Third, WPL will catalyse the development of young talent in the country and around the cricketing world.

    “The Women’s Premier League is a huge development. Female cricketers in India will stick to the sport for a longer duration now, and it will only benefit Indian cricket in the longer run," Mithali Raj, a former captain of India and a mentor for the Gujarat Giants told Associated Press.

    For several years, the BCCI resisted calls for a women’s T20 matches, citing a lack of interest from sponsors and broadcasters. However, India's powerful cricket administration did stage a four-match Women’s T20 Challenge to run parallel with the IPL knockouts. But late last year, BCCI finally acted after a financial research report revealed a major appetite for women’s T20 cricket, and the WPL was born. There is a total of five franchises in the WPL Season 1--Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Capitals, Gujarat Giants, and UP Warriorz.

    The three-week tournament will contain 22 games, including 20 in the league stage and two knockouts, all played in Mumbai for Season 1. So far, Mumbai Indians and Delhi capitals are leading on the point table at 4 points each.

    "WPL is an encouragement where the sports will be looked at as a career option. It's all looking good for women's game at the moment," Chopra said.

    The WPL has already become the most lucrative women’s cricket franchise across the globe. "This is the first season of the WPL, but I also hope and see this growing into a major sporting property in the country, building stars and heroes and also equalising the exposure that male and female athletes get in India," Sanjana Ganesan, WPL Anchor, Sports18 and JioCinema said.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    Mansi Jaswal
    I write about gender-related issues, women's rights, women empowerment, gender equality, women's health topics, and their wealth management. Also, profiling women who have fought all odds to make their own identities in their own rights. Before Mint, I worked at Business Today and Business Standard. I studied journalism at IIMC, Delhi. Got a story idea? Email me at mansi.jaswal@htdigital.in
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    Published: 08 Mar 2023, 10:10 AM IST
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