Women's game not ideal but that's reality - Chopra
Anjum Chopra, the former India captain, believes women's cricket hasn't developed as much as it should since being taken over by the BCCI in 2005. However, unlike her predecessor Diana Edulji, who squarely blamed the BCCI, Chopra said it was a reflection of reality and of market forces in sport.
India failed to qualify for the Super Six stage of the World Cup after their defeat to Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
"I don't blame the BCCI for it. I don't blame them completely. I know it's a big statement but there are reasons," Chopra, currently a technical advisor to the South African women's team, told ESPNcricinfo. "Ideally, I would have liked to be in the same boat as men cricketers. But I come from a managerial background and I understand finance. So if I say it has to be on the same pedestal, it would be unfair."
Chopra, the first woman cricketer to earn 100 ODI caps, felt it was too much for Indian women's cricket to ask for the same monetary benefits as their male counterparts. "I can ask for the same adulation but I can't ask for the same remuneration. It will take myself and my game some time to reach that level," Chopra said.
"I look at it from this perspective: if somebody is getting ten rupees and I am getting two, at least I know that somebody is getting ten rupees and I can also get ten at the end of the day. Let's work hard and bridge that gap. If I don't get [that money] after performing, I can come back and complain. But at least I know somebody is getting, so the world is wide open.
"I had a chat with the sponsors of the men's team and asked them why they didn't sponsor the women's team. They said, 'The Board never forced us to do it, so we took the easier way out.' Again, it's their decision. I am just an onlooker and commenting on it. But I am sure they would have sat down and discussed it before making that decision. Again, I would say the world is far wide open, it's not closed."
Chopra said the issue of remuneration worked differently for different people. "I had a job so I was getting paid even before the BCCI came in. The remuneration has increased and, though it's not gone from zero to hundred, a lot of players were not getting paid at all [earlier]. As I say, when you are in a bigger structure and you are small fry, you have to learn to swim as well. If you learn to swim in a pond, you can learn to swim in an ocean later."
The other point of concern for India's women cricketers is the drastic reduction in their international commitments over the past eight years. India played just 26 ODIs between the 2009 and 2013 World Cups, much less than the top three teams in women's cricket. Australia, England and New Zealand have featured in 36, 39 and 34 ODIs during the same period. Even West Indies, ranked lower than India, have played 38 ODIs during the same period. The lack of game practice was perhaps one of the major reasons for India bowing out of title race in the preliminary round.
This is in stark contrast to their schedule when the sport was under the Women's Cricket Association of India. "That's a drawback," Chopra admitted. "We could have played more international cricket. Again I say, I don't know why the BCCI has reduced our international commitments. But looking at it from their perspective, I know that they say that if you are the fourth-ranked team in the world, you should play against the top three teams; not the ones who are below us, which is fair. But the difference right know is so great that we are not able to climb higher. So, I would rather get the best results out consistently as a player or as a team member and then knock on the doors for opportunities."
Despite having joined the South African set-up, Chopra stressed that she is "still an active player" and the thoughts of hanging up her boots have never crossed her mind. In fact, she is relishing being a part of the dressing room of an international team, that too for a World Cup. "First of all, I am getting an opportunity to be with an international team, which is a huge honour for me. The best part is, I am still around the dressing room that has some of the players who I have played against.
"Besides, there are a few talented cricketers coming about. Working for Cricket South Africa, especially to talk about the South African culture and the great sporting culture over there, I get to know what's happening on the other side of the world. So it's been brilliant. Especially, their men's is doing so well, so you get to know a lot about how they prepare, how they interact and what all are the things they do while preparing for a big series."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo