There are two things that really sell in our country – and I am talking about the pre-pandemic world so no, masks aren’t included. It’s Bollywood and cricket that has kept Indians obsessed for decades now. From theatres to stadiums, fans shower their love on their favourite players –probably much more than they show their own partners. PS: Virat Kohli won’t be there to listen to you bitch about your work. Anyway, my point here is that despite cricket being such a loved sport in India, women’s cricket doesn’t get opportunities equal to what the men get.
Women’s cricket in India undoubtedly grew manifold and it was evident as the team reached the finals for the first time in the 2020 World Cup that happened earlier this year. Even though we didn’t win against Australia, it was still a big achievement for the team as this event became the most-watched in women’s cricket.
Mithali Raj, Indian women’s ODI captain said that COVID-19 has set us back by a couple of years as the momentum that was created is lost. “Unfortunately, women’s cricket may have been set back by a couple of years by this pandemic as some of the momentum that had been built between India’s success in World Cup 2017 and World T20 2020 has been lost,” Mithali expressed her concern in a webinar.
In fact, she feels that we are still at least three years away from a having a women’s IPL. “However, we have had discussions with BCCI to draw up a firm calendar for the Indian women’s team so that fans can regularly cheer for the team. The plans have obviously been disrupted but we believe we can rebuild quickly. I think a full-fledged Women’s IPL is still 2-3 years away but we would certainly look to have a fourth team in the Women’s Challenge that is played concurrently with the IPL,” Mithali said.
And isn’t this true? The same kind of marketing investments aren’t made for women’s cricket and so there isn’t enough buzz around it. Smriti Mandhana, 2018’s Best Women’s International Cricketer said that female cricketers are not recognised by most people, probably 10 out of 100 would know them by their faces.
During the webinar, DG (SAI) Sandip Pradhan they will “further open up opportunities for Indian start-ups.” He said they will be focusing on digital and re-inventing their priorities. “Being physical while leveraging digital is the new normal, so we need to re-set, re-invent and re-work our priorities,” Pradhan explained.
The IOA president Narinder Batra said corporates should come forward to promote sports in India. “We cannot expect the government to take upon itself the onus of building a world-class sporting environment when it is stretched between the many priorities of a developing economy, this is where the corporate India needs to step in, and it has to be a collective effort,” he said.
And maybe a lot of this should be invested into women’s cricket.