Shubhangi Kulkarni, former India captain and member of the BCCI women’s committee, called for the long-term plan for women’s cricket it had submitted to the BCCI to be taken up seriously again. In a Firstpost exclusive, she shared some details of the proposal that has yet to be implemented.
Even before they have reached Indian shores, the country is celebrating the team. The BCCI has reportedly planned a grand reception for them on their arrival, with hours of felicitations and and hordes of reporters awaiting them, something each of them will no doubt be looking forward to after almost two months on the road. But they should lap up all the attention they get; this is India, and it doesn’t last long. With the men’s Test against Sri Lanka starting at the same time, the attention of the country will be divided again.
Which begs the question, what next for women’s cricket? When Anurag Thakur was BCCI president, he had spoken about a taking the Indian team to the top of the world by 2020, and had asked the women’s committee to submit a five-year ‘vision document’ to that end. But in the wake of the Lodha committee reforms, both he and his plans for women’s cricket became one of the many casualties of the reluctance of the BCCI to implement those reforms.
"The women’s committee has already given their vision document," said Kulkarni, "This was around September last year. It covered everything, including school cricket, Under-16, Under-19 tournaments. We also talked about India A and India Under-19 tours. We felt it would help to prepare our girls for international cricket."
Thakur, as president of the BCCI, had said in an interview to ESPNCricinfo last June that he wanted India women to be the No. 1 team in the world by 2020. This was after the Indian team had won their first series against Australia at the start of the year, when they beat the Aussies in the T20I series on their own shores. That raised expectations from the Indian team in the World T20, but they crashed out in the first round, suffering a shock loss to Pakistan, eventually winning just one group game.
It was then that the women’s committee was tasked with submitting their suggestions, and one among these was inter-school tennis ball tournaments to attract young girls to the sport. "Schools cricket has to become a huge thing. Unless we introduce that, continuous flow of players for states is not going to happen," it stated.
Besides a grassroots structure, the committee recommended measures to ensure the national team would be able to catch up with the rest of the world. "For the Indian team, we recommended specialised camps, for fielding, fitness etc, which could happen in the off-season camps. Also, the team management should be appointed for two to three years so there is continuity; it’s not like you are guessing who the next coach is going to be," said Kulkarni. Coaches still operate on series-to-series contracts, and the Indian team's coach was changed — at the request of the players — just two months before the tournament.
"I think now its time, with women’s cricket on a high, this is the right time to start implementation," said Kulkarni.
A women’s IPL was also discussed in the document, although not at the scale of the men’s tournament. "We had proposed (a women's IPL), probably with some changes and not exactly like the men have it. Maybe start with four or six teams. We need to sit down and actually see where the players are and who can make the T20 teams. A bit of work is required, but I definitely think now is the time to do it.," she added.
The author is a former India cricketer and now a freelance journalist and YouTuber. She tweets @SnehalPradhan