Reality bites after that dream run in Women's World Cup


Reality bites after that dream run in Womens World Cup
India players react after losing the ICC Women's World Cup final to England (AFP file)

Dubai - Despite all the hype over Indian women's cricket team following their stunning run to the World Cup final last month, question marks remain over their future in a country that pays peanuts to its domestic players

By Rituraj Borkakoty

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Published: Thu 24 Aug 2017, 8:25 PM

Last updated: Sat 26 Aug 2017, 2:37 PM

With that unforgettable run to the World Cup final in England, they made a foray into the front pages of Indian newspapers. They were also given a red-carpet welcome upon their return from England. 
Even Narendra Modi, arguably the most popular prime minister in the history of the world's largest democracy, took time out of his busy schedule to felicitate this Indian women's cricket team at his residence in New Delhi. 
Indeed, few Indian sporting feats have made such waves in recent times. 
The likes of Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Jhulan Goswami have now become household names, enticing many to believe that this is the start of a sporting revolution by Indian women in a country famous for worshiping its male cricketers.
Even Sania Mirza, who knows a thing or two about breaking gender stereotypes, had to answer media questions on the rise of women's cricket in India.
"I just hope that the euphoria surrounding them doesn't die down. In India sportswomen don't get the kind of attention sportsmen get. That's why I hope that the questions you are asking me now will be asked again one or two months later," Sania replied to an NDTV question on whether the Indian team's performance in the World Cup was a game changer for women's cricket in the country.
Sania is right. After having defied many an obstacle on her own path to sporting glory, she knows where the foundations are built. It's in the deserted world of domestic tournaments where aspiring athletes take their first steps. 
If the foundations are not strong, you can never expect athletes to go the distance.

Poor match fees
Former Railways coach Vinod Sharma is a man who has given his heart and soul to Indian domestic cricket. The two-time Ranji Trophy-winning coach also trained the Railways women's cricket team for 20 years at national level. 
"Those days the Indian women's team had nine or 10 players from our Railways team," Sharma, whose long list of admirers includes a certain Sunil Gavaskar, said with great pride.
From the current Indian women's team, only captain Mithali and Harmanpreet are Railways players. "I haven't coached Harmanpreet, but Mithali is one of my best students," said Sharma who also coached legendary Indian women's cricketer Diana Edulji.

Former Railways coach Vinod Sharma (left) and Mithali Raj (right) with the first BCCI Senior National Women's One-Day Championship Trophy in 2008. That was the year when BCCI took women's cricket under its wings. (Supplied photo)
Sharma is happy to see the women's cricketers get the country's attention. 
"They are the heroes of the country now. But the selectors also deserve praise for picking a wonderful team. I think it is the best Indian women's team ever," he said.  
This was India's only second appearance in a World Cup final. And for the team to consistently challenge the top guns, Sharma believes a lot of work needs to be done at the grass-roots level. 
But first, India must start paying decent money to women's cricketers. Only then can they expect more girls to play cricket.    
"Their match fee is very less. I know that because I was with the Indian Railways women's team until 2012. You know the first eleven players used to get INR 2,500 (Dh143.23) and the reserve players used to get INR 1,250 (Dh71.61) per game. 
"And in a T20 domestic tournament match, a first eleven player used to get INR 1,250 (Dh71.61) and a reserve player used to get INR 625 (Dh 35.81)," Sharma said. 
"A Ranji Trophy player, on the other hand, gets about 1 million (Dh57,290) if he plays the full season. So I always used to write to the BCCI to increase the match fees in women's cricket. But they did nothing then. I think even now the domestic players are earning the same money. 
"If they can give them 10,000 (Dh572.91) per one-day match in domestic cricket, the players will be more than happy. You know even the boys under 16 players get better match fees than senior women's domestic players," Sharma said matter-of-factly.  
"So BCCI should seriously work on this. The girls have done their job so well. So now it's BCCI's job to look after them."
High hopes from Diana  
The presence of Diana Edulji in BCCI's interim committee is a big boost for women's cricket, Sharma says. 
"Diana has been doing a lot for women's cricket. I think she played a big role in BCCI announcing 5 million cash reward for each player of the World Cup team," he said. 
Apart from the match fees, Sharma believes introducing more domestic tournaments will help the sport. "All states in India should have an inter-district tournament in three formats - two-day games, one-dayers and T20s," Sharma said. 
"If every state has these tournaments, there will be more girls playing cricket in India and we will have a big pool of talent to choose from," he said.
"I know women's cricket can never compete with men's cricket. But they deserve better treatment. I am hopeful now because Diana is in BCCI and she is a role model in Indian women's cricket. She will definitely do something outstanding for the women's game."

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