Judging by BCCI’s handling of women’s cricket, the invasion of so many women into the sport could make them rethink their Olympic exploration. In the 15-year history of leading Indian women’s cricket, BCCI’s actions have been ambivalent, driven entirely by the mood of the men at the top. In 2011, BCCI President N Srinivasan told former Indian captain Diana Edulji, “If I had my way, I wouldn’t let women’s cricket happen.”
In 2015, BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur announced contracts for female players. After the women reached two ICC finals in three years, their share of the prize money from the World T20 final was in the fridge for a year. When the news got out, it was first denied, then covered up and then passed on as someone else’s fault. Only then did the payouts begin.
BCCI’s generally shabby treatment of its female players goes beyond money, and extends to a lack of respect – beyond access to opportunities, game time, tournament calendars, which have come to them and are now a norm for women in Olympic sport. The 2021 Sports Law & Policy Symposium held earlier this month talked about some state-level initiatives for women’s cricket – in Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh – as opposed to zero-focused leadership from the top. The independent 2020 study, An Equal Hue: The Way Forward for the Women in Blue, which takes the views of 350 current Indian female cricketers, highlights BCCI’s ‘well-left’ treatment.
Indian cricket often asserts its superiority over Olympic disciplines due to its financial strength, taking precedence over other sports mentioning sustainability and marketing. The women’s game pretends this is the 1970s and headquarters are sitting at someone’s dinner table, with severe budget constraints. Of course, the women were favored and had to learn to generate their own income.
An online magazine offered two quotes, one from a “BCCI officer” and the other “veteran BCCI officer.” No. 1 said: ‘There is no gender discrimination as far as the BCCI is concerned, but you just can’t compare them to men’s cricket and talk about the same pay structure.’ No. 2 added: “Women’s cricket should earn its own entity and be proud of it.” No names are mentioned. There seems to be some shame about claiming ownership of those thoughts, but not enough shame to keep them from being expressed.
Any Olympic sport can’t handle that tone. The IOC mandate makes it the duty of its international and national federations to provide women with greater access and opportunities, and sustained play calendars. The Olympic sports that the BCCI looks down on — throwing Rs 10 crore their way without compensating for their own Covid-ridden community — could send them toolkits to improve women’s participation. No saints run those organizations, but chauvinism is not an option for them. Their overlords of the Olympics will not allow it.
Let’s use one of Indian cricket’s favorite words: intention. From what we’ve seen over the past two years, BCCI’s intent around the women’s game is suspect. They haven’t put anyone in charge of the women’s game, which is essential. Their decisions emerge as controversy-driven responses, not policy-driven initiatives.
There are only a few possible reasons for such behavior. That BCCI is not happy that the women suddenly attract attention after those two finals. That they are happy, but don’t know what to do now. Or maybe it’s simpler: they’re not overjoyed, they don’t know what to do and would rather the women weren’t there. You choose.
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