CHENNAI: It has not even been six months since the Indian women's team played in front of a record crowd at Melbourne Cricket Ground in the most-watched final of a women's cricket competition. After finishing runners-up in that T20 World Cup, the team has a 50-over World Cup in New Zealand, although the fate of the event is uncertain.
They were supposed to be the first Indian team to take the field after the pandemic affected normal life, in England in September. The bio-secure model proposed by the English board (ECB) was so impressive that some of those involved in discussions said it could be tried by BCCI in domestic matches.
However, last Friday, the BCCI revealed it won't send the women's team to England, where it was supposed to feature in a tri-series also involving South Africa. With the World Cup not called off yet, this trip would have given Mithali Raj & Co valuable game time. Also, playing in England would have been beneficial, considering that conditions are similar in New Zealand.
The higher-ups in BCCI thought otherwise. Even though they came up with an expansive plan to have the IPL in UAE because of the situation in India, they shot down the idea of sending the women's team to England, saying it is unsafe. Unsafe, when the ECB is hosting the West Indies in a Test series in bio-secure environments, and getting ready to welcome Pakistan for another Test series next month!
It is said that assembling players in one city would have been difficult. It is worth asking then that how can a board, which finds it practically challenging to get 20 women players in one city, carry 150 men (players and support staff) to the UAE? This appears to be nothing but negligence, which was handed out to women's cricket for years. The BCCI took it under its wings only after the ICC made it mandatory.
When the BCCI was caught up in legal tangles, Diana Edulji's presence in the Committee of Administrators meant attention was paid to the women's game. Though there were controversies in appointment of coaches, a spat between players and former coach Ramesh Powar, the team was on the way up. Two final appearances and a semifinal in the last three ICC events are testament to that. But with power going back to elected officials, it seems the women's game is beginning to stagnate again.
Following Syed Saba Karim's resignation as GM of cricket operations, there is nobody to handle the women's team's operations. Despite advertising for selectors in January after the Hemalata Kala-led committee's tenure ended, the posts are still lying vacant. It is understood that the issue was raised in Friday's Apex Council meeting, but shot down as the office-bearers deemed it unnecessary to pay selectors when there are no matches. Did they forget it was them who told ECB that they won't send the team?
It is learnt that the Future Tours Programme for men was discussed, but the women's team was left out. The decision to not send the team to England was not even discussed in the meeting. By doing all this, BCCI appears to be treating women's cricket as a liability rather than investment. Sure, this team doesn't fetch money, but that's not its duty either. Somewhere in all this, BCCI seems to be forgetting that development of cricket is also its job other than making money.