In India, cricket is more than a sport — it is like a religion. With millions of devoted fan bases, India is a powerhouse in the cricketing world. Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar are household names and are worshipped like heroes, along with several others. But what about the heroines of the elegant sport? Is the Indian women's cricket team as well- advertised in the media as men’s? Are we as excited about watching the women’s cricket team as we are when the men in blue step onto the pitch? We definitely know about the huge pay gap between the two teams. But how far have we come in closing that gap?
In the early 70s, many women played cricket but it was not really organized. Women's cricket in India started officially when the enthusiastic and enterprising Mr. Mahendra Kumar Sharma, the founder secretary, registered the Women's Cricket Association of India (WCAI) under the Societies Act at Lucknow in 1973.
Over the years, the Indian women’s cricketing team has continued to make the country proud by winning several series, breaking many records, and also reaching the World Cup finals twice. The Indian Government has recognized the contributions of women Indian cricketers by awarding the prestigious Arjuna award to Shanta Rangaswamy (the first Indian woman cricketer to score a century in international cricket), Diana Edulji, Shubhangi Kulkarni, and Sandhya Agarwal. Most of the country is not aware of their accomplishments and the media does not advertise them nearly as much as the men’s cricketing teams. Unfortunately, this is the case for all sports throughout the world even though we are slowly but steadily closing the gap in terms of player wages, investments, infrastructure, media visibility, and advertisement.
In light of the changing times, The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has taken a huge step forward in women's cricket in India with the introduction of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) or the women's version of the Indian Premier League (IPL). We all know how the men’s IPL started in India fifteen years ago, how profitable and globally influential it has been, and how it made India a mecca for cricketers worldwide. WPL aims to follow in the footsteps of IPL. The tournament began with an exciting bang on the 4th of this month. In preparation for the Women's Premier League, for the first time ever, women cricketers were auctioned at the Jio Convention Centre, Mumbai. Although the women cricketers were auctioned at fairly high prices with prolific batswoman Smriti Mandhana fetching a sumptuous Rs 3.4 crore from Royal Challengers Bangalore, the figures are nothing compared to men's IPL. This, again reflects a glaring instance of gender inequality when it comes to sports. Advertisement creates an audience. The audience creates revenue. More revenue encourages more investment. As we discussed before, since women are not as well advertised in the realm of sports as men, it is no surprise that the investment in women's sports is much lesser.
Most of India has lauded this initiative by BCCI, marking it a milestone move for the future of Indian women’s cricket. BCCI merged with WCAI in 2007. According to local media reports, the deals secured by the WPL made it the second most valuable women's league after the American women's basketball league (WNBA), before the tournament even began. There are some critics who view this move by the richest cricket sporting move in the world, the BCCI as a stunt to merely generate more revenue in the name of women’s representation and a form of 'performative wokeness'. Despite this, there is no doubt that IPL, the inspiration behind the WPL, has generated tremendous amounts of money, even with accusations of betting and unfair gameplay. Even though WPL is being viewed with a scrutinous eye by a few, it has thus far provided a major platform for women cricketers around the world to showcase their talents in the limelight and is, at the very least, a step in the right direction.