Report on women’s cricket: No clarity who runs women’s cricket within BCCI; enough depth to start women’s IPL

Harmanpreet Kaur addresses the Indian team before they take the field. © ICC

The Sports Law and Policy Centre published a report with recommendations to aid the growth of women’s cricket in India. The report, titled ‘An Equal Hue: The Way Forward for the Women in Blue’, by Snehal Pradhan, former India cricketer, journalists Karunya Keshav and late Sidhanta Patnaik, calls for more investment, structural changes within the BCCI administration, a strong pathway for young girls to take up cricket from the school level, and a Women’s IPL.

“Elite cricket is only the tip of the pyramid. A robust India A set-up, competitive domestic structure below that, an active age-group system, and strong club and school cricket at the bottom are all vital to constantly replenish the pool of players and push existing elite athletes to improve themselves. India A matches were revived after the 2017 World Cup defeat; more experience against top teams will only help,” the report said while calling for the improvement of bench strength.

The report says a Women’s IPL could serve as the perfect bridge between domestic and international cricket and accelerate the growth of the game in India. “Look what women’s Big Bash League has done to Australian cricket. India too needs a women’s IPL to ensure they are the best in the sport,” said Keshav.

While accepting the difficulty of beginning with a full-fledged eight-team Women’s IPL, it has been recommended that the board begin with four teams – aligned with four of the eight existing franchise teams – before expanding beyond that. This, they recommend should be started next year.

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“There is enough depth (of talent) in India for it to be started with four teams. What we need right now is for players who play at state level to be drafted for women’s IPL. This is a proven successful model—it happened with the Australian Football League where a women’s eight team competition was started as compared to 18 teams in the men’s competition. It has now grown to 14 teams in three-four years.”

The report, published on day two of Sports Law and Policy Symposium, also calls for structural changes in administration of women’s cricket in BCCI saying there is currently little clarity about who runs the women’s game – players are uncertain about the point of contact.

“There is no clarity who runs women’s cricket presently within BCCI. The BCCI operations presently in place does not allow it to give focused attention to women’s cricket,” said the authors Pradhan and Keshav. “They handle all domestic cricket for both genders. Separate the women’s division within it.”

Barriers to participation, building a pathway system that involves Under-16 and school cricket and also expanding their talent search to smaller cities were some of the other points discussed in the report.

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Currently, the only age-group tournaments played by the women are Under-19 and Under-23. Before the BCCI took over, the Women’s Cricket Association of India ran a very successful Under-16 national tournament – something that has become redundant now. The lack of cricket in school or college is also a deterrent to participation.

In order to expand the limited talent pool, the report suggests BCCI to create a talent spotting method to find cricketers coming from smaller cities. It also asks BCCI to have marketing campaigns with its contracted male and female players to popularise women’s cricket using their stardom.

“20 per cent girl cricketers in our survey said their families told them not to take up cricket; 33 per cent said their extended family, friends, neighbours discouraged them from taking up the sport. BCCI should put in place a long-term marketing campaign to change perceptions.”