The BCCI might cry hoarse denying it, but there is little doubt that the women’s World Cup currently underway in England is their ‘Trupti Desai’ moment.
Trupti Desai, a feisty woman who fought and lost a Pune Municipal election on a Congress ticket, caused a near social upheaval across India when she and her followers stormed a series of male-only places of worship in Maharashtra last year. These included Shani Shingnapur Temple, Mahalashmi Temple in Kohlapur, Trimbhakeshwar Temple in Nashik and Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai.
Right or wrong, motivated or otherwise, political or social, these forays became quite a media circus and short of dividing society and triggering a civil unrest, shook up all stake-holders in the Indian polity.
The Indian women’s cricket team is in a similar male-bastion storming, epoch-making situation and the BCCI could hardly be pleased at their continued success in distant England.
It is no secret that BCCI never wanted to be saddled with the running of women’s cricket. Their hand was forced by the ICC and in 2006 a protesting, unenthusiastic BCCI was compelled to have a women’s wing.
Of course BCCI believed they were doing a great favour to women’s cricket by allowing women cricketers to use training facilities and providing the requisite support staff.
Those in the know point out that players ignored constant slights and barbs and worked extremely hard to get to a position where they might well turn out to be world champions in the next 36 hours.
“There are no three-day or even two-day tournament for girls. Most of the states are simply not interested in women’s cricket and they are least interested in creating the right atmosphere for its promotion.”
One issue that some administrators spoke of is that women’s cricket needs “too many facilities.” By this they mean secure changing rooms and washroom facilities.
State associations usually do not invest in infrastructure unless the land belongs to them or is under their control through long-term lease or written agreement. Thus constructing washrooms, pavilion, change room, etc on somebody else’s land is out of the question. Sure boys can do with make-shift facilities but girls need a better and more secure environment.
The Indian women, by making the World Cup final, might have already taken that argument out of BCCI’s hands and could force it to think of innovative methods to sort the issue. Why not use Porta Cabins (portable cabins), for instance. Each would cost around Rs 2 lakh and the BCCI could ask each association to pick up 10 to 20 of these to be placed in hired grounds.
The BCCI must be aware that there is a storm brewing as far as their treatment of women’s cricket is concerned. Of course winning the World Cup would be the proverbial Pandora’s Box for BCCI. They will be visited by demands of all sorts: from better pay, travel, boarding and lodging, incentive money, houses, transportation, IPL for women to more facilities for women cricketers. And why not?
It is quite an achievement that the women have done so well in the world stage despite the BCCI not even conducting enough tournaments for them. Every state, including those regressive ones, must be asked to conduct three to four annual tournaments for women. Talent scouts, training, camps for young girls etc must be promoted in a big way and manned with gender-sensitised personnel.
Most of the current Indian team women are very fit because they train for long hours in the gym, said one cricket expert. They have taken a leaf out of men’s training methods. He said that it was normal to see a number of girls sweating it out for long hours in the gym in KSCA’s premises.
“Many of the women cricketers work for long hours in the gym and in the nets. But they also need a lot of matches."
Even otherwise, KSCA-type facilities have to be made available in all districts of India at the earliest.
It is better that the BCCI voluntarily does these. Otherwise habitual protesters and others who make a din at the drop of a hat will jump into the fray and make maximum noise at the lack of facilities and incentives for women. BCCI would need to take the bull by the horn and work out system, process and incentives to encourage and promote women’s cricket before all and sundry take to the streets.
Else BCCI ought to be prepared to see Desai-inspired agitations in their corridors of power. There is a storm brewing and it is not in a tea cup for sure. Trivialise it at your peril, BCCI.