Don’t Lose Sight of the Real Goal
Women’s cricket needs much more than felicitations
—Reuters Seven Indian journalists were at the airport when the Mithali Raj-led Indian team left for England for the World Cup in June. More than 80 were there to receive them at 2.30am on July 26 when they landed in Mumbai coming second best to England in a closely contested final. These facts are confirmed to me by a journalist colleague who was there on both occasions. Even when Jhulan Goswami landed in Kolkata the next day, there were no less than 50 journalists present at the airport. Since making the finals, the team has been awarded Rs 50 lakh each by the BCCI and individuals like Raj have been gifted a crore by the state government and also a BMW by sports enthusiast Vankina Chamundeswaranath. Most others have also been feted for their splendid showing at the World Cup.
While these felicitations and meetings with men and women in prominence continue, the moot question needs to be asked over and over again. Will we continue with these felicitations and functions without making the most of this opportunity? Bluntly put, have we lost sight of the real goal already? This surge in interest will soon die down and it might yet again end up being an opportunity lost.
For the record, India won 101 medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and it was our best showing ever. It was followed by a very good showing at the 2010 Asian Games with our boxers winning multiple medals, including a gold by Vijender Singh. The surge continued in London and India ended up with 6 medals for the first time in history. These athletes, toast of the nation, were celebrated and rewarded. But soon enough it was all back to square one. With the IOA suspended for corruption and mismanagement in December 2012, the entire momentum was lost. India was down to 65 medals at Glasgow 2014 from the 101 in 2010, we won half of what we had won in 2010 at the 2014 Asian Games and finally to two at Rio 2016.
Inability to make use of the opportunity and make more profound structural changes in the sporting realm has meant Indian Olympic s p o r t s c o n t i nue its struggle for corporate support. That’s what we don’t want for women’s cricket. While it’s all very good to give Mithali a BMW, may be Chamundeswarnath, a former cricketer and administrator, would have done better in giving this money for hosting women’s camps across the state. While the BCCI seems all gung-ho about the women’s cricket at the moment, we have not yet heard of any concrete steps they plan to take in the coming months. Will there be more tours and a well-defined Future Tour Program (FTP)? Will there be a change in the nature of central contracts? Can we start thinking of more camps? Will there be thought of an IPL style tournament or exhibition games
A surge in interest in women’s cricket will soon die down if we don’t make the most of the opportunity
side by side the men’s IPL, as Snehal Pradhan, a former India cricketer, had suggested in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup? Finally, and very importantly, what is the BCCI’s stand on cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics?
The decision on Olympics participation can have a massive impact on the women’s game going forward. Harmanpreet Kaur leading an Indian team out at Paris in 2024 will yet again galvanize the nation and the
—BCCL moment cricket is included in the world’s greatest spectacle, corporate India will be forced to take notice. The BCCI needs to realise it is no longer a decision based on the men’s team alone. The women are equal stakeholders. They need to be consulted before the ICC is informed. Time is at a premium here. A decision will be made in September, and unless the BCCI decides to offer its support, this will be yet another major opportunity lost.
Ravi Shastri during India’s practice session at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground
While the BCCI seems all gung-ho about the women’s cricket at the moment, we have not yet heard of any concrete steps to take it to the next level