Edulji slams 'discriminatory' BCCI, says women's game dying
Diana Edulji, the former India Women captain, has criticised the "discriminatory" attitude of the BCCI and said the board is not interested in running women's cricket beyond paying "lip service". She warned that the women's game in India is in danger of dying out if the current situation persists.
Edulji, one of India's pioneering woman cricketers, was on the BCCI's women's committee and was also manager of the Indian Women team in 2009. It was a "dream" when the BCCI took over women's cricket a few years ago - in line with ICC regulations - but now the bubble has burst.
"The BCCI is running women's cricket because they have to run it, because the ICC is now running both men's and women's cricket," Edulji told ESPNcricinfo. "Otherwise, there is no women's cricket. They cannot play under any other banner. I would say it is an insult to women's cricket to be treated this way."
She was scathing about the gender-based double standards prevalent in the game's administration. As an example, she spoke about how the India Women team preparing for the Women's World Cup had been put up in a centrally-located but budget hotel before being shifted to the luxury Taj Mahal Palace hotel a couple of days ago.
"I was driving and on Marine Drive I saw this whole bunch of red t-shirts coming. I realised it was the India Women team," Edulji said. "They were walking from Sea Green [the hotel] to the Wankhede [Stadium]. I stopped my car, and the way they greeted me, I felt nice, but I also felt that this is the Indian national team, and they are walking on the street?
"And where are they playing? Police Gymkhana, Hindu Gymkhana, Bombay Gymkhana? Would any men cricketers play there?"
India's international and domestic women cricketers had to make do with significantly lower match fees and other benefits, Edulji said, and combined with a sustained lack of exposure, there was little motivation to take up the game apart from pure love of the sport. "The players should be getting the maximum. The irony is, in women's cricket it is the other way round; the selectors get the maximum, then come the match referees, and then come the players. So how are you going get girls to come into cricket? And what is the domestic match fee? Rs 2500 (US$ 47 approx). Where are you going to eat, if you stay in a four-star hotel? And for T20 it is even less, Rs 1250."
Despite consistently being among the top-ranked players in the world, Edulji said India captain Mithali Raj had little chance of being recognised in public due to the lack of visibility of women's cricket in India. "I may be boasting. Still, when I go to movies or restaurants, I am still recognised. But I am sure if Mithali is with me, she won't be recognised. It is sad. I still feel nice when someone comes up to me and introduces me to their children. And why shouldn't these girls get the recognition? Jhulan [Goswami] is a Padma Shri [winner], she's an Arjuna awardee, so is Mithali."
However, Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's chief administrative officer, said the board was giving women's cricket adequate support. "Women's cricket has come under BCCI's wings in 2006. Since then, the board has done an excellent job with it," he said. "We have extended the best of facilities to women cricketers. All the state associations have thrown open all their training facilities to the girls. Besides, virtually every team has all the requisite support staff, including a coach, a physio and a trainer.
"All the girls are very happy with these facilities. The board is focussing on shorter formats for women's cricket because almost all the international calendar revolves around T20s and ODIs. And the women's committee's suggestion of splitting the inter-state competitions into Plate and Elite group has been accepted. Next year onwards, top 10 teams will play each other, thereby increasing the level of competition."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo