Women’s cricket: still a long way to go

While the people’s perception of women’s cricket has improved, a look at the ongoing World T20 — both men and women — makes one wonder whether the International Cricket Council and the respective cricket boards have done enough for women’s cricket.

Lydia Greenway... "Moving forward, I think we are now seeing that women's cricket has a growing fan base."   -  Getty Images

“FIFA gives more benefits to players and they promote football at a higher level. Since most of the football matches are telecast live, and the promotion is at a higher level, the viewership increases. I think that ICC needs to market women’s cricket at a higher level,” says Pakistan's Nain Abidi.   -  Getty Images

The New Zealand skipper, Suzie Bates, is of the view that the popularity of women's cricket is improving.   -  Getty Images

Women’s cricket has come a long way since its inception, and there is a major shift in the way the audience has accepted the sport. However, even if women cricketers, who have been playing for more than a decade now, try to convince you that people’s perception of women’s cricket has improved, a look at the ongoing World T20 — both men and women — makes one wonder whether the International Cricket Council and the respective cricket boards have done enough for women’s cricket.

Lydia Greenway of England has played in all five World T20 tournaments so far. She believes that the women’s game has developed enormously since the first women’s World T20 was played alongside the men’s tournament in England in 2009.

“I think the platform created for the women’s game by playing the two tournaments side by side is really positive in terms of creating a real sporting spectacle for cricket fans everywhere to enjoy.

“Moving forward, I think we are now seeing that women’s cricket has a growing fan base. There is merit in playing alongside the men; it also creates opportunities to promote the women’s game as an event in itself,” says Lydia.

According to her, the ICC is offering a huge support for the development and promotion of women’s cricket globally.

“It is brilliant that so many of the group matches during the current ICC Women’s World T20 are being telecast around the world. This gives us a great platform to showcase the game and inspire young girls — and also boys — everywhere to play the game that we love,” says Lydia.

Snehal Pradhan, who was part of the Indian team that toured England in 2011, says: “On the one hand, you have the hype about the event on which you can ride piggyback. But on the other hand, you are in the shadows of some of the men’s matches.”

She then adds: “As a launching pad, it was a good idea.”

Former India captain Anjum Chopra is of the view that hosting the men’s and women’s tournaments simultaneously was a fantastic initiative by the ICC.

“It is good. It is a fantastic initiative. Obviously when you get to play at the same time as the men, woman cricketers get a good platform to showcase their talent, and it is a great advertisement for the sport,” she says.

Anjum says that the ICC is doing enough for the promotion of the game and finds it surprising that people ask questions in this regard.

“The ICC is doing phenomenal work to improve and popularise women’s cricket. They have been working on developing the sport and globalising the game since 2006 when they took over. The very fact that the matches have increased from three to 10 to 13 now and in less than a decade, they have held five World T20 tournaments for women points to their phenomenal work. The next World T20 will be held as a standalone event.

“They are doing great work to highlight the women’s sport. In the last decade they have done so much, so I am sure they have planned well for the promotion of the sport in the future too,” says Anjum.

As for the disparity in popularity between men’s and women’s cricket despite the fact that both the men’s and women’s World T20 events are being held at the same time, New Zealand captain Suzie Bates says that it is difficult to pinpoint the problems.

“It is hard to point your finger… . (The popularity of) women’s cricket is improving, but there is still a long way to go. I think it is around the people promoting the game. The more it is seen as a spectacle, the more it is on television; the more people get to know the likes of Mithali Raj, the more they want to watch it. But if it is not on your face, you don’t know about it,” says Suzie.

The last time the women’s World Cup (50-overs-a-side) was held in India in 2013, the official broadcaster had telecast 10 of the 25 matches. This time, the number has increased to 13.

Pakistan batswoman Nain Abidi feels that its is a wise decision by the ICC to host the Women’s World T20 along with the men’s event in order to attract maximum crowd for the women’s game. However, the ICC’s effort to promote the women’s game in general is not much.

“The promotion could have been done better. Mass promotion such as billboards and TV coverage needs to be done more wisely to attract people to come and watch women’s cricket. Having said that, things have come a long way for the players at least, as they get the same facilities as the men. But to build up more audience more promotion is required,” Nain says.

“In comparison, FIFA gives more benefits to players and they promote football at a higher level. Since most of the football matches are telecast live, and the promotion is at a higher level, the viewership increases. I think that ICC needs to market women’s cricket at a higher level,” she added.