Towards Cricket Equality
If one were to remember this year’s IPL conducted in the months of April-May it comes to mind that all the matches that were scheduled to be conducted in Pune in the month of May were shifted to Mumbai. The reason for this deviation was that while the men’s IPL was making big bucks in its fifteenth season, there was a hushed tournament called the Women’s T20 Challenge being conducted in – you guessed it right- Pune! While you can very confidently tell me which team has won the most men’s IPL seasons, most of you would probably question the existence of the Women’s T20 challenge.
Unknown to many people, the Women’s T20 Challenge is a tournament organised by our very own BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) since the year 2018. (Yes, it’s been here for quite a while now!). The competition comprises three teams namely – ‘Supernovas’, ‘Trailblazers’, and ‘Velocity’ that play matches in a round robin format. This means that only a total of four matches are played, including the final.
The fixtures of the matches look something like this-
- Supernovas vs Trailblazers
- Trailblazers vs Velocity
- Velocity vs Supernovas
Given all the possible permutations and combinations, one realises that a team winning both its assigned matches will easily decide the finalists. On the flip side, if each team wins only one match, then Net Run Rate (NRR) of the teams plays the pivotal role in finding the finalists. The real question to ask here is that is this really a fair format? The answer is no, this format isn’t fair. In fact, according to this format, a team’s fate is determined not only by its performance, but also by the outcomes of the other teams which hardly makes any sense. If this format is to be continued, then each team should play every opponent at least twice for a better and fair result. An increased number of matches will decrease the pressure on the teams and will boost each team’s confidence and opportunities.
Think how hard it is to play in such a format where the result of a game doesn’t matter as much as the team’s NRR. The most successful team that has won the championship thrice, regardless of anything, is the Supernovas.
Now, if we were to take a look at the squads we would notice that just like the men’s IPL, this competition also has a mix of Indian and foreign players. Harmanpreet Kaur captains the Supernovas, Smriti Mandhana the Trailblazers and Deepti Sharma leads Velocity. Further, the overseas players include Alana King, Sharmin Akhtar, Sophia Dunkley to name a few.
(P.S- If you call yourself a cricket fan and these names seem new to you (especially the Indian ones), then newsflash- You in fact, aren’t a true-blue cricket fan!)
Amongst them the player with the most runs is Harmanpreet Kaur (362) and the one with the most wickets is Radha Yadav(12). This is the result from just the past four seasons! The prize money for each season has been Rs. 25 lakh which doesn’t stand a chance of comparison to the Rs. 2000 lakh prize money awarded for the men’s IPL
What’s incredulous and might cross one’s mind is why hasn’t anyone ever heard much about this tournament? Well, in the BCCI’s defence, both the IPL and the Women’s T20 Challenge were simultaneously streamed on Hotstar and the Star Sports Network. However, the men’s tournament got heavy advertisement and marketing. On the other hand the women’s tournament was not promoted much by the broadcasters. During a season of the IPL, one would lose count of the number of advertisements with male cricketers. Why don’t women get the same kind of exposure? Now that’s the real question.
It’s a simple equation- the more the viewership a competition gets, the higher revenue it can generate through advertising. The IPL in 2019 generated a whopping Rs. 2,200 crore through brand endorsements and televised commercials only! This figure has only multiplied since then. The women’s competition in contrast barely generates any revenue. So while I wholeheartedly want the BCCI to increase womens’ salaries, prize money, advertising, and marketing opportunities, part of me sadly knows that this can only be achieved through an increased viewership. Investors will only invest if the returns seem bullish. This can only happen when people (specifically Indians) show their interest in women’s cricket as they do to men’s tournaments. The future of women’s cricket globally and nationally depends on the audience and it really is in our hands to promote and increase women’s cricket opportunities.
The good news is that the change has already begun! BCCI recently announced that the women’s T20 will be renamed the Women’s IPL from 2023 and will comprise at least 6 teams. This would mean more matches, more competition, and most importantly more opportunities to attract viewers and investors!
On an ending note, let’s be optimistic and hope that the year 2023 is revolutionary in terms of cricket equality. Let’s try our best to give equal hype and attention to the women in blue!