Without follow-up action, the interest in women's cricket will evaporate, says Shantha

Shantha Rangaswamy describes herself as being pleasantly surprised by the manner in which the Women’s World Cup captured the imagination of the Indian public.

Shantha Rangaswamy feels this was needed long back.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Shantha Rangaswamy describes herself as being pleasantly surprised by the manner in which the Women’s World Cup captured the imagination of the Indian public. However, for this tournament to change the face of women’s cricket in the country, it is vital that concrete action is taken now, the former India captain believes. One of women’s cricket’s pioneers in India, Shantha spoke to Sportstar after Sunday’s World Cup final.

The excerpts:

Did you expect the Women’s World Cup to generate this sort of interest?

It was a very pleasant surprise. This was needed long back. Social media had a huge role to play. It generated so much of interest and that translated into coverage in the print and electronic media. This is the zenith of popularity and publicity for women's cricket in India.

Can it be a turning point?

Nothing is going to happen on its own. A lot of follow-up action is needed. The BCCI needs to maximise this opportunity to spread women’s cricket to the far corners of the country. Unless the base is widened, and the competition and standards increased, we're not going to see long-term benefits. Make it mandatory for all zones to hold U-16 matches. Only South Zone has been having it. We need pan-India interstate school tournaments. They may say we never do it for boys but that's different. You don’t have to do it for boys. There are perhaps some 30 crore boys playing whereas we don't even have 3 lakh girls playing and even that's an exaggerated figure.

This tournament will have inspired a lot of young girls...

Initially, yes. But without follow-up action, that interest will just evaporate into thin air. State units must be told to hold inter-school events. If there are not enough school teams, help them build them. Gradually each city will have 20-30 school teams. But there has to be a will. I only hope this World Cup performance will spur us into action and some tangible results can be seen.

What about financial rewards?

They get 2500 per day for domestic cricket. How is that enough? You may announce 50 lakh or 1 crore to some 20 people (from the senior squad). But if you really want to help the game, if you really want to take it to the masses, you should increase the fees for domestic cricket. They're paid peanuts. Unless you make them financially independent, unless the girls feel they can pursue a career in cricket or they don't have to trouble their parents for their livelihood, there can't be much progress. My emphasis is on domestic cricket, because that's where we'll get the players from.

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