Women seek World T20 boost in equal­ity bat­tle

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

From poor pay to lack of train­ing grounds and me­dia cov­er­age, and even sex­ual ha­rass­ment, women crick­eters have long faced in­equal­ity in a multi-bil­lion dol­lar sport dom­i­nated by men.

Aus­tralia and Eng­land face off in the Women's World T20 semi-fi­nals in Delhi on Wed­nes­day, and New Zealand play the West Indies in Mum­bai on Thurs­day. With both semi­fi­nals and Sun­day's fi­nal in Kolkata im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing the men's equiv­a­lents at the same grounds, play­ers are hop­ing that suc­cess in the tour­na­ment - and in front of a global TV au­di­ence - can inch them fur­ther to­wards par­ity.

"We are hop­ing to win and hop­ing that will kick­start more in­ter­est in the women's team. So watch this space," said New Zealand cap­tain Suzie Bates who has racked up 171 runs at the tour­na­ment in cricket-mad In­dia.

"It's about chang­ing peo­ple's at­ti­tudes and get­ting the mes­sage across," the veteran of World T20s said of the strug­gles fac­ing the women. Crick­eters say the sport has come a long way since the 1970s when women started play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally, and they have fought hard to have ac­cess to de­cent grounds on which to prac­tise, funds for equip­ment and qual­i­fied coaches.

The In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil's 2005 or­der for men's and women's na­tional gov­ern­ing bod­ies to merge was hailed by many in the sport as a chance for the women to flour­ish.

But in In­dia they were left to lan­guish, with the all-pow­er­ful Board of Con­trol for Cricket in In­dia (BCCI) re­luc­tant to pro­mote or de­velop their game or or­gan­ise fre­quent in­ter­na­tional tours, ac­cord­ing to In­dian sports jour­nal­ist Neeru Bha­tia. "It was re­ally pa­thetic at one point," Bha­tia, The Week mag­a­zine's cor­re­spon­dent, said, adding the BCCI started mak­ing amends, in­clud­ing in­tro­duc­ing con­tracts, af­ter a re­cent change in lead­er­ship. In New Zealand and neigh­bour­ing Aus­tralia, Bates said she has no­ticed a shift in at­ti­tudes in re­cent years to­wards "what the men get the women get too".

For the first time at this tour­na­ment, for ex­am­ple, the White Ferns have sin­gle rooms, rather than shar­ing with team­mates to save costs. But their re­quest for busi­ness-class seats was re­fused for their 17-hour flight from New Zealand to Dubai, a lux­ury given to the men.

In Sri Lanka, the team are try­ing to put a sex­ual ha­rass­ment scandal be­hind them that skip­per Shashikala Siri­war­dena con­ceded had dam­aged their in­ter­na­tional im­age.

Sri Lankan cricket sacked three of­fi­cials last year fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions that women from the na­tional team were be­ing asked to per­form sex­ual favours to keep their places. "Step by step, [the cricket board] have solved it. It's a good start for women's cricket," Siri­war­dena told AFP. "Lots of of­fi­cials are new af­ter those prob­lems we had in the last two years. Other coun­tries were ask­ing about it. It was dam­ag­ing for our im­age."

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