Smriti Mandhana Talks Pay Parity, Being A Sportswoman And More In This Tell-All Interview
For the longest time, the sports industry especially the cricket world was so male-dominated that it was very difficult for women to crack through. I am not saying there weren’t any sportswomen, of course, there were but they had to strive way harder to make their mark in a sport of their choice. Yes, it is a lot of responsibility and I think that is why I have tremendous respect for all those sportswomen out there.
Just this week, we caught up with 23-year-old Indian batswoman Smriti Mandhana at a press meet for the launch of Power’s new collection of sports shoes for which she is the brand ambassador. After talking to her I realised the amount of dedication and perseverance it takes to get to the position she is at today. Smriti told us that she started playing cricket at the tender age of 5 (I couldn’t even walk straight at 5, ugh) she started playing professionally when she was around 11, and that when she knew she wanted to be a cricketer. She was playing professional cricket as a mere preteen, it is no wonder she was named as the best women’s international cricketer by the BCCI in 2018.
One of the first things we asked her was how her parents reacted when she told them that she wanted to be a cricketer.. She said, “I think it was their dream more than my dream. It wasn’t very difficult for me, my mom and dad always wanted me to be a sportsperson and the choice of sport was left to me.” She further added “I didn’t need to convince them. When I got my first India cap, I gave it to my dad and that was like his dream come true.”
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Can you imagine if more families gave their daughter the freedom to pursue their dreams like Smriti’s family gave her?
Moving the conversation along, Smriti said that her brother was the biggest influence in her life. She said, “Growing up I had only one inspiration, which is my brother. I didn’t watch a lot of cricket at that time, I don’t think we had a TV but I used to watch my brother bat so that is the only way I knew that is how we bat.”
Smriti has come a very long way and she truly is one of the gems of our country. She has scored runs, broken records and done team India proud at a world stage. We asked her what her message would be for young girls who want to take up a career in sports but are hesitant to do so. She said “If you have passion for something, you need to enjoy it. Till you don’t enjoy it you don’t get the results. So, if you are doing your gym or conditioning session, you should never be like Arey yaar kyon karna hai (Why do I have to do this?). You should always enjoy doing what you do.” Giving her own example she further added, “the day I stop enjoying my batting I don’t think I will be able to do what I do. So yeah, just enjoy what you do. “
Though this question was meant to be about young sportswomen, her answer can be just as easily applied to all young working women who are yet figuring out what they want to do in their careers. Basically, all of us, ever.
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The thing about accomplishments though is that they don’t come without hurdles and as we all know, for women the world of sports contains multiple obstacles. Though things today are getting better bit by bit, talking solely about the cricket world, we have to admit isn’t completely inclusive of women. Yes, the Indian women’s cricket team is breaking barriers and winning tournaments, but we can’t ignore that it has its issues too.
Pay parity, for example, is one major issue for women in sports (much like women in other major industries). If we talk solely about cricket then annually, the men get paid more than double of what the women are paid. Reports say that the male cricketers are entitled to an annual remuneration of a whopping 7 crores, but the women cricket team is only paid 50 lakh for the same time.
Now call me crazy but this does not seem like it would be fair at all, right? But in another interview, Smriti talked about pay parity and according to her, it is unfair of women’s team to ask for equal pay since most of their revenue comes from the male team.
She said, “We need to understand that the revenue we get is through men’s cricket. The day women’s cricket starts earning revenue, I will be the first person to say that we need the same thing. But right now, we can’t say that.”
The difference though is staggering. Maybe not equal right now, but the women’s team does need a raise for sure.
More power to you, Smriti.