India women don’t need a backward step. Period.

India women don’t need a backward step. Period.

Even as both the men's and women's players put in the hard yards equally, there are a few aspects of the game that need to be looked into.

India Women 2017 World Cup
India Women. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Serena Williams, back in 2017, embraced motherhood after getting married to entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian. She was in her late 30s and her career was in doubt due to the bodily hormonal changes amidst pregnancy and after giving birth. Five months later, she was back on the court with her elder sister, Venus, in the Fed Cup.

Her husband, from the stands, was seen feeding their child from the bottle. Serena was both rusty and belligerent in the Williams’ sisters’ 6-2, 6-3 loss to Demi Schuurs and Lesley Kerkhove. Did the result matter much? No, it didn’t. Serena was already a winner when she took her stance with the tennis racket.

Would it have been possible without hard work and rigorous training? No. There’s a reason why the winner of 23 Grand Slams held the no.1 rank for 319 weeks. All the years of hard work have paid off as with a net worth of $210 million dollars, she is the highest-paid female tennis player by a country mile.

Switzerland’s Roger Federer, who is of the same age as Serena, is worth $450 million dollars. Federer has racked up 20 Grand Slam titles in his career. Though there’s a gap of over 2.10 times between the two, tireless efforts have paid dividends for both.

Then there’s cricket

Smriti Mandhana
Smriti Mandhana. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Is it the same for cricket? There’s enough doubt, especially in the Indian fraternity. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the central contracts for men and women, and the pay parity is pretty much palpable. So much so, that the lowest-paid men’s cricketer in Grade C (INR 1 crore) earns two times more than the highest-paid women’s cricketer in Grade A (INR 50 lakhs).

Hence, it’s understandable that both men and women put in the hard yards day in and day out, but the rewards might not be on the same lines. Going by a report by BBC Sport in 2017, 83% of sports around the world have equal prize money for men and women.

Though the first international game was played back in 1844 between the USA and Canada, cricket isn’t definitely one of those sports. Be it any profession, though passion and other factors play a role, money is one of the biggest motivators, irrespective of gender.

Saurashtra cricketer Chetan Sakariya used the money he got from the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the operation of his late father. Karnataka cricketer Akanksha Kohli, in 2017, had said that a lot of girls don’t spend their DA in order to save money for the family.

At a snail’s pace 

Harmanpreet Kaur
Harmanpreet Kaur. (Photo by Mark Kolbe-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Though compared to the 2015-16 season, when the India women’s cricketers earned INR 10 lakhs (Grade B) and INR 15 lakhs (Grade A), the remuneration has increased, it’s still a long distance away from men’s cricket.

In 2020, young batting sensation Smriti Mandhana said that performance on a consistent basis will be a key for the women’s team going forward to reap the monetary benefits.

It’s pertinent to note that since 2017, India Women have played the finals of two ICC events- the 2017 World Cup and the 2020 T20 World Cup- and the semi-final of the 2018 World T20.

Players of the calibre of Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, and Poonam Yadav among others have made sure that the cricketers don’t get lost in the oblivion. But the rewards aren’t coming in time. Are they?

After playing in front of a record crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in March 2020, they didn’t get the prize money of $500,000 for finishing as the runners-up, The Telegraph reported.

Though a BCCI official informed that a “technical reason” led to the delay in payments, irrespective of the situation, it’s the cricketers, who ended up being on the rough side for their hard-earned money.

Darkness looms large

Veda Krishnamurthy
Veda Krishnamurthy. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Following the game at the MCG, the Indian cricketers had to wait for nearly a year before making their return to international cricket. In between, they played four games in the Women’s T20 Challenge in Sharjah.

The players were also hard done by when the 2021 World Cup had to be postponed, albeit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The odds of life seemed to be stacked against them.

Veda Krishnamurthy lost her mother and sister and adding insult to injury, she didn’t get a central contract. Not playing cricket and staying locked down at home in the current scenario have given rise to mental health issues for the cricketers.

Veda doesn’t disagree. “The stress, anxiety, fear, and grief that many players have experienced through this pandemic will take its toll on them,” she said.

Young batter Priya Punia’s mother passed away earlier this month due to coronavirus. However, the 24-year-old honoured her professional commitments after being picked for the tour of England.

The mental strength needed to stick to one’s tasks despite personal tragedies is unfathomable, to say the least. Maybe, that’s why the cricketers go on to don the national colours at a young age.

See some light?

Jhulan Goswami of India
Jhulan Goswami of India. (Photo by Dave Thompson-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

Amidst the gloom, the wheels of fortunes are turning, though at a slow pace. The four-day Test against England is set to be India’s first in the format since 2014.

The Day-Night Test against Australia, later this year, is the icing on the cake. The likes of Jemimah Rodrigues, Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, and Harmanpreet Kaur are set to set to play in the inaugural edition of The Hundred.

Even four years ago, Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami were the only source of identification of the women’s team, leave alone crowd gathering at venues to watch the side play. Things are a tad better, though there’s a long distance to travel.

In 2016, Serena, who’s currently a part of the 2021 French Open at Rolland Garros, had it straight regarding the role and image of women in sports.

“As we know, women have to break down many barriers on the road to success. One of those barriers is the way we are constantly reminded we are not men, as if it is a flaw. People call me one of the “world’s greatest female athletes”.

“Do they say LeBron is one of the world’s best male athletes? Is Tiger (Woods)? Federer? Why not? They are certainly not female. We should never let this go unchallenged. We should always be judged by our achievements, not by our gender”.

It’s simple! Women’s sports, including cricket, don’t need a backward step. Period.