The India women’s team recently toured England for a four-day Test series that ended in a draw. This has shone the limelight on women’s cricket, although the local women’s cricket scene is abuzz with activity. Female cricketers like Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, Jhulan Goswami, and Smriti Mandhana need no introduction as they have become household names. However, there is still a long way ahead before women’s cricket catches up with its male counterparts.
These sentiments were echoed by Saba Karim, who until recently was the General Manager of operations in the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India). He recently had a detailed chat with ESPNCricinfo about his tenure at the BCCI and his thoughts on the way forward on matters of women’s cricket.
He said that it must have its own constructive plan separate from the men, with several outreach programs for women’s cricket to prosper. It must be planned differently from men’s cricket and made much more professional.
He also noted that women’s cricket had unique challenges, like the lack of competent girls to cover different competitions. BCCI already has Under-19 and Under-23 cricket, but 40-50% of the girls play both for some teams. This meant that the BCCI had to have separate programs for both Under-19 and Under-23 to avoid scheduling conflicts during planning. Such issues were unheard of in boys’ cricket, which has more than enough talented boys to see it through.
There must be transparent systems to tap young talent, nurture it and guide the players through all the stages of their careers obstacle-free. He also said the reason the BCCI abandoned Test matches is due to their time implications. Many women cricketers are not full-time professionals and thus cannot get the time to participate in several tournaments that are played out over several days. This was the primary reason why the BCCI discontinued the domestic first-class tournament after the 2017-2018 season. As a result, the Test series in Bristol in June against England was the first long-format game that the team had played in seven years.
He said that the only way to join the likes of England and Australia in hosting long-format matches is to introduce multi-day cricket in the domestic circuit. He pointed out the logistic nightmare of scheduling these matches into an already packed calendar. Furthermore, he noted the extra workforce needed to facilitate this move from match officials, scorers, video analysts, etc.
He concluded by posing a request to the various states to work hand in hand with BCCI to formulate a viable strategy to take women’s cricket to the next level.
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