GS Lakshmi dreams big

Women's CricZone Staff
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GS Lakshmi dreams big

GS Lakshmi standing in the first-ever WIPL finals. ©BCCI

GS Lakshmi is breaking stereotypes every single day. From overcoming societal barriers in her younger age to tackling gender bias now, she's seen it all and knocked those barriers out of the park.

She's recently been appointed as the first female to be appointed to the ICC International Panel of Match Referees.

Lakshmi started her journey in the steel city of Jamshedpur where she was admitted in Jamshedpur Women's College under the sports quota. She then went on to play for Railways, which is arguably the most successful team in Indian domestic women's cricket. She played a pivotal role in bringing the inter-Railways title to South Central Railways for the first time.

In 2008, she was selected in the first ever panel of female match referees appointed by the BCCI, only to officiate in women's domestic games. In 2014, Lakshmi cleared the the BCCI's qualification exam and she was shortlisted in a pool of 50, from where she qualified to stand in boys' and men's domestic games.

Laksmi has since officiated in the Under-19 Cooch Behar Trophy for boys and women's domestic games across all categories. She also has overseen three women's ODI matches and three women's T20I matches. At the recently concluded Women's T20 Challenge at Jaipur, she officiated all four matches as the match referee.

Speaking to ESPNCricinfo about the challenges of being a female match referee, she said, "Prejudice about the cricketing acumen of women is the biggest and the only challenge. You could sense that apprehension among the boys and the male match officials. Something like, "Aurat hain… kar payegi bhi ya nahin (She is a woman. Can she even do the job)?' But after observing me in the first few games, and how I go about my job, all those doubts dissipated. I don't think now when I walk out to officiate in men's games, I don't sense that "aurat-mard" (man-woman) kind of discrimination."

Lakshmi also says there are no special perks for being a female match official. "Whether you're a man or a woman, doesn't matter. It's all about how well you're doing your job. I have had nothing come easy to me just because I'm a female match referee."

Also, speaking to ESPNCricinfo about her ambitions, she said, "I want to officiate in the Women's World Cup, both the ODI and T20I tournaments, especially in the final. Cricket, and more specifically women's cricket, has got me to where I am today, so my heart is still with the women's game. But having refereed in men's games, too, I'd also love to officiate in a men's multi-team tournament run by the ICC."

She also spoke about the inspiring young women to overcome all the barriers and explore the opportunities the game offers even after engaging in active family life.