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Lays Flavour World Cup....one of the many gimmicks for the Men's World Cup. Credits: Ivory Tower

Lays Flavour World Cup....one of the many gimmicks for the Men's World Cup. Credits: Ivory Tower

Every March 8th the world celebrates International Women’s Day. One calendar day set aside exclusively to celebrate the women in our life. On this day the nagging mother, the moody girlfriend, the bossy older sister and the whiny younger one are all recognized for the goddesses they truly are. Also during this time of year is the Cricket World Cup, held every four years; about two months of testosterone-high extravaganza for sports-buffs and marketers alike. India’s enthusiastic (some maniacally so) fans paint themselves, build temples and do poojas all in the name of their “Men in Blue.” The marketers, meanwhile, find themselves with easy prey. They pander to their customers’ sudden love for Mother India with slogans like “One billion hearts, one wish” and find their bank accounts going greener and greener.

International Woman’s Day and World Cricket Cup. You might be wondering about the relation between the two. Well, put them together and you get the “Women in Blue”! For those who are still confused ask yourself this question: “While the male cricketers of India enjoy demi-god status what about their female counterparts?”

An untapped market…
Indian cricket fans can’t get enough of cricket. It shows, too. The Indian cricket team may not be the best in the world but its captain is the highest paid cricketer in the world. The new T-20 format and the IPL Tournament, all seem like gimmicks to attract more and more viewers. Day by day cricket seems to be dictated by the audience than by the essence of the game itself. Considering all this, the woman’s cricket seems like a large untapped market with huge potential. After all if India is earning crores from the IPL tournament with its Bollywood glamour and firangi cheerleaders, why not the same with the women? Wouldn’t two tournaments of similar magnitude mean double the profits? Yet the whole country seems largely indifferent to the women’s cricket team. In fact the male cricket team gets more media coverage for a loss than the women do for a big win. Why?

Are women meant to be only an audience? Credits: Ivory Tower

Are women meant to be only an audience? Credits: Ivory Tower

Not good enough??
Shiva Tadishetty, second year student of Tirumala Engineering. College (TEC) puts it simply: “Because the Indian women’s team isn’t good enough.”

Not really. In fact the women’s team is pretty good. Granted that they aren’t exactly the world champions right now but they’ve had their share of achievements. They’ve won the Asian Cup five times so far, every single time it’s ever been held! Their performance at the World Cup has been, if nothing else, consistent and in 2005 they finished as the runner-up in the tournament. If it’s not bad performances that’s keeping the women in near-obscurity, then what is it?

In Search of an Adrenaline Rush
“What’s there to see? It’s not exciting,” says Nerella Sunil, a second year TEC student) when asked if he’s ever seen a women’s cricket match. “I remember watching a match between the Indian women and Australia. Had it been the men’s match I could have watched it all night but the women’s match was just so boring. I think India won that match but I didn’t really care,” he says. He isn’t completely wrong.

Prizes and world ranks not withstanding, the women’s cricket often comes across as amateur when compare to men’s. The highest ODI innings total by India (men) is 414 runs (against Sri Lanka on 15th December 2009) whereas the women haven’t so far managed to even cross the 300 landmark yet (their highest total being 298 against West Indies in 2005).

“The runs aren’t piled up as fast, the shots don’t go that far and the fielding doesn’t measure up to the standards of the men,” says Sunil. This leads to another question. Is biology the reason behind the women’s cricket lack of popularity? Are women just not made for cricket? However if that was true then what about other sports like tennis, badminton? All of these sports require high fitness and endurance levels and yet women receive their share of limelight. Where are the “Serena Williams” or “Saina Nehwals” of cricket? The reason behind this could be funds. The female cricket team doesn’t have access to many resources. It seems like what the team needs is some “Chak de! style Shah Rukh Khan.”

Training and Funds
Before we talk corruption and stereotypical issues, both of which might apply, let’s explore other reasons as to why the government would be unwilling to invest in a women’s cricket team. “There aren’t any big stars to invest in or hire as brand ambassadors in women’s cricket team,” says M. Prithvi of Tirumala Engineering College, “…besides no really cares about women’s cricket.” True. Not even the girls.

Pramodhini, a fourth year student of Sree Nidhi Institute of Technology and Sciences (SNIST) is a self- confessed cricket buff who can’t bear to miss a match India is playing without at least regular score updates. However, she admits to not being as interested in the women’s team. “I rarely watch women’s matches, almost never. I think I’ve just watched one match so far. A long time ago…don’t really remember it.” Being such a die-hard cricket fan doesn’t she ever feel like playing the game herself? ”Well, my family never really let me,” she says a little sheepishly. Bingo.

At a coaching camp in Marredpally. How many camps offer classes for girls?  Credits: Ivory Tower

At a coaching camp in Marredpally. How many camps offer classes for girls? Credits: Ivory Tower

Truly a gentleman’s game
M. Sirisha of SNIST shares the same sentiment as Pramodhini. Despite a huge interest in cricket she’s almost never played it herself. “I’ve played some other sports before though. When I was in America I played basketball, swam regularly and even played a little tennis,” she says. Why did athletics take a backseat when she returned to India? “Well over there you’re expected to be active in sports. Athletics is another class just like Math and Science and almost equally important. Here, girls are expected not to take part in sports. Even in sports periods we just sit inside. The boys don’t really give us a chance to play cricket. They are always hogging the equipment themselves,” she smiles, “but,” she admits, “even if we got a chance to play it would feel weird.”

After a hard day's practice. Credits: Ivory Tower

After a hard day's practice. Credits: Ivory Tower

At a time when the girls compete with the boys equally on almost all domains like academics and jobs why not sports? Although it’s not uncommon to see boys lugging huge kits to cricket coaching grounds early in the morning and even less uncommon to see a game of gully cricket in full flow after school hours, you don’t very often see a girl wielding a bat. The issue really boils to the question: are girls just the spectators of this “gentleman’s game”? That’s a question that the girls have to answer themselves.

“Girls need to self-motivate themselves and the parents too should encourage them,” says Sayee Bhargavi, a recently passed-out student of Osmania University, who would have enjoyed pursuing a game like football when she was younger.

Society’s perception plays a big role in influencing most girls’ decision to take up a sport like cricket. It’s up to the woman to stand up and decide to play. Who knows? They might just be a female Tendulkar or Gavaskar hidden in India’s girls. All it takes is a little “flower power” to uncover them. Doubtful? Very. Impossible? Nope.

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