Stop Talking about Sexism, BCCI!

BCCI Hardik Pandya KL Rahul
Image Source: dnaindia.com

How does this work?

You are one of the richest cricket boards in the world if not the richest. You, basically, are the government and the supreme court of the cricketing world. Because of you, day-night test cricket hasn’t seen the light of the day. Because of you, DRS remained under the scanner for almost half a decade. Because of your policies, cricketing policies see the light of the day. But if there’s one thing you shouldn’t take a moral high ground on, it is the recent controversy in Indian cricket that has everyone talking about.

Hardik Pandya KL Rahul
Hardik Pandya KL Rahul were suspended for making inappropriate remarks at a chat show. Image Source: India Today

(Disclaimer: At this conjecture, in no way do we support the comments made by the star duo on a certain chat show. We are in no way advocates of such remarks on national television and in no way do we want them to not be reprimanded for their remarks because they rank higher in the order of sex appeal.)

The BCCI growth story:

BCCI has been on an upward trajectory since its inception in 1928 when it was recognized as the national governing body for cricket in India. However, for a country which got its first woman Prime Minister as early as 1966, it has always shown scant regard for women and their problems. Leave aside everything, let’s talk only women’s cricket.

In 1873, barely 7 years after Indira Gandhi was sworn in as the Prime Minister, India women’s team played their first international match. When India women’s team won their first match against West Indies in 1976, it was watched by a mammoth 25,000 spectators in Patna.

BCCI representation
MCCI logo. Image Source: exchange4media.com

Matches, world cups, accolades for players have been few and far in between for the women’s cricket in India. The current CoA member Diana Edulji, Shanta Rangaswamy, Sandhya Agarwal and Sudha Shah were torchbearers of the early times of women’s cricket.

Then came Jhulan Goswami, Anjum Chopra, Anju Jain and Mithali Raj who is still in the reckoning. However, the current crop takes the cherry for the influence on this social media addict generation. Be it Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Poonam Yadav, Veda Krishnamurthy, all of them have become household names.

The IPL- Enough said:

On July 23rd 2017, in the finals of the women’s world cup, with the country glued to the television sets and mobile phones, India lost to England by a slender margin of 9 runs. Thus ending their fairytale run. Now you’d surely expect things to get better in the aftermath of this.

For when a certain Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the inaugural T20 world cup in South Africa in 2007, a consortium of a businessman, corporate biggies and Bollywood stars got together and started the Indian Premier League. Very soon it dawned on the masses that they could land a huge paycheck and ultimately play for the country.

IPL
Indian Premier League. Image Source: Financial Express

The likes of Shane Warne, Wasim Akram, Stephen Fleming, and Andy Bichel were looking for out-of-the-box talents to spruce up their franchise teams. Players already at the state level were amused with sudden attention they were getting from the media. Brendon Mccullum hitting a whirlwind 158 in the opening match of the IPL only made it better.

But what followed in July 23rd 2018 was shambolic, to say the least. Indian women’s team did not play an international match 7 months after that. And when they got back to playing, they were in for a cruel joke in March 2018. The BCCI proposed and formulated a new contract system in which A+ grade and C grade was added to the list of men’s and women’s contracts respectively. Men’s A+ grade contract was worth a massive INR 7 crore while women’s A grade contract was worth a mere INR 50 lakhs.

The equal pay and equality crusade across sports:

Wimbledon was the pioneer in offering equal prize money a decade ago. And soon others played. Now football, golf and cricket remain the global sport to not have completely done away with the pay gap. Administrators across the globe are of the perception that it’s never about how good the women cricketers or women sportsperson to be put in the same pay bracket as men. It’s about how good a product is packaged and marketed. Maybe the richest cricket board can take a cue from Cricket Australia in both the packaging aspect as well as the pay aspect.

gender inequality sports
Gender gap is clearly visible in indian sports. Image Source: Indian Express

The CA-ACA pay dispute and its implications:

If ever the women’s cricket needed a shot in the dark, it was the CA-ACA pay dispute. When a long-standing pay dispute was resolved, not only did Cricket Australia increase women cricketer’s pay by 7 fold, it also meant that women cricketers were paid on par with their male counterparts. The total women cricketer payments increased from $7.5 million to $55.2 million. The Cricket Australia thereby making it clear to the young women cricketers that it was a genuine possibility to have a career in cricket.

The domino effect of WBBL and CA-ACA pay dispute:

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia had announced the ambitious Women’s Big Bash league along with the lines of Men’s Big Bash. They came up with the exact number of teams as the men’s. In 2015-16, their first season, they initially planned to have only 8 of their 59 matches live on free-to-air channel network One. The high TV ratings prompted CA to move the finals to Network Ten.

Network Ten moved their broadcast from One to Ten, their main broadcast channel. Gideon Haigh, an Australian cricket journalist, speaking to ESPN Cricinfo, said, “Traditional cricket fans that I know, who won’t watch the BBL, will watch the women’s BBL because they feel the players are playing for the right reasons. They’re excited and innocent and jubilant and in love with cricket that they’ve introduced a kind of lost innocence to the game that cricket was in danger of losing touch with.”

Women cricketers greatly benefitted from this league. If ever there was a win-win situation for the women in any sport, this was it. Now, as the WBBL enters the final phase of its 4th season with the grand finale in a few days from now, we take a look at the ‘reforms’ undertaken by BCCI for the betterment of the sport for women.

The IPL women’s EXHIBITION match:

Hours before the high voltage clash between Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad on May 21, 2018, at Wankhede, starlets Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana were ready to lead an all-star women’s team for an exhibition match. Leading women cricketers like Suzie Bates, Alyssa HealyEllysse Perry, Danielle Wyatt had descended on Wankhede to take part in the exhibition match.

IPL Women Exhibition Match
IPL Women Exhibition Match. Image Source: scroll.in

The BCCI deemed this to be historic. It was one, by BCCI’s standards. It was BCCI’s way of damage control except that it did more harm than good. An exhibition match is by no means a way to satiate women’s team to play a T20 league at the highest league.

BCCI has always shown to be ahead of other cricketing bodies when it comes to decision making in the cricketing world. Sure, if the esteemed cricketing board considers cricket as a game only played by men. Almost a year later and a handful of matches by the Indian Women’s team, there are no signs of a future tours programme or a full-fledged Women’s IPL let alone the pay gap.

On the back of controversy of two cricketers appearing on a chat show hosted by a leading Bollywood produced with its Bollywood-ness and making questionable remarks, the BCCI was quick to reprimand the cricketers and even dealt them with severe blows leaving their IPL and World Cup dreams in balance. Rightly so, the players deserve everything that the board has been associating. Could you also look at the national women’s team and give them what they deserve?

Will the real BCCI please stand up?

Mrs.Edulji, you have been a legend of the game, you have played the game at the highest level when few dared to do. You understand the intricacies and challenges more than anyone. Now with the game at a crucial phase where it unites a whole nation, when there are more women interested in the game than at any time in the past, why hold them back?

Why rob them of giving them match time? Why asphyxiate them to play a countable number of matches in a season? Why condone them to media and the nation’s attention only during the women’s world cup?

PT Usha, Marky Kom, PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Swapna Burman, Hima Das etc have brought more jubilation and excitement than most male athletes. It has been revolutionizing in ways more than one. It is high time you stand up for what right like you’ve just shown during this period.

We want to tell you, in the two Kilkenny cats that is you and Vinod Rai, the women’s team who are the ones at a real loss. Mind looking at them for they deserve more if not on par with men’s team. Please?

The great beat musician Gil-Scott Heron sang ‘The revolution won’t be televised’. Oh, it will be. If the BCCI acts soon enough, it will be. Over to you, BCCI, CoA, Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji.

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