Equal Hue: Creating multiple pathways for women's cricket at grassroots

The three key parts of the initiatives are to help the young girls enter the game, facilitate them to stay in it and help them develop and succeed.

Published: 09th March 2022 07:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th March 2022 12:59 PM   |  A+A-

Cover of the Equal Hue report (Photo | Equal Hue/Kruthika NS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: When the Equal Hue Report, written by former India cricketer Snehal Pradhan, sports journalists Karunya Keshav, and late Sidhanta Patnaik along with SLPC, was published in late 2020, some of the numbers came out were pretty startling. The survey, with inputs from over 350 athletes in the domestic system, focused on the hurdles women cricketers had to face at various age-group levels before making it to the top.

Take this for a sample: as many as 91.4 percent of the athletes had to play in a boy’s team as there weren’t any all-girls teams where they grew up; over 40 per cent of the athletes had not played in a women’s team even at the inter-college and inter-university level.

In the next 16 months, the project has become a collaborative effort as they conducted several round table discussions, all of it anonymous, with more players, parents, coaches and private stakeholders on the societal barriers, financial hurdles and issues at the grassroots levels. And on the 2022 International Women’s Day, the #EqualHue team, GoSports Foundation and Meraki Sport & Entertainment have come together with several initiatives aimed at creating pathways for aspiring female cricketers from across the country.

The three key parts of the initiatives are to help the young girls enter the game, facilitate them to stay in it and help them develop and succeed. As a starter, they have announced a Girls Cricket Cup for U-16 girls across 12 cities, essentially an inter-school tournament, with 4 teams per city. There will be talent scouts to shortlist three players from each city for skill assessment camp from which the top 12 will progress to the next stage — Professional Excellence Programme.

The programme will focus on need-based grants to cover training, equipment, nutrition and wellness of 32 players, aged between 16-23, per year followed by an annual assessment. The final step would be year-round monitoring and mentorship for 24 athletes per batch at Padukone Dravid Centre of Excellence, Bangalore.

Karunya, one of the authors of the report, said that the first stage would be identifying talents at the grassroots, and then keeping them in the sport which is where financial support comes in, given the fact that Railways is the only team in the domestic system to provide employment for women cricketers at the moment.

“This is also where Snehal’s personal journey comes in as she had to make a choice between cricket or taking a job after college. And it is a case with a lot of athletes. So, we realised that we can help the players through the phase at college and see where your game is at the u-23 level,” said Karunya, who co-authored Fire Burns Blue — a book on the history of women’s cricket in India — with Sidhanta.

“Everything we are trying to do is where there is no BCCI programme right now. There is absolutely no clash and it's not trying to replace anything or something like that, just creating multiple pathways for young girls and also targeted at brands who want to get into women’s sport,” she added.

Speaking on the occasion of the launch, Snehal Pradhan, programme director, said that the under-16 age group would be in focus with an ICC Women’s Under-19 World Cup on the horizon, adding “having almost quit cricket before getting a Railways job, I know how important it is to support players financially and expand pathways for progression. We look forward to developing these with the help of GoSports Foundation.”

Namrata Parekh, co-founder and director, Meraki Sport & Entertainment, that from a marketing and brand point of view there are 120 days of sustained engagement as the back of this programme, which is trying to actively engage over 30,000 aspiring female cricketers.

She felt that for any sport to grow, corporate support is needed in one way or another, adding, “with the Women’s IPL becoming a reality more and more by the day, this is the right time for brands to get in because the cost might not be exponentially high, but the return you will get from here is going to be higher.”


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