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Nicole Bolton, Sarah Taylor, Mithali Raj – Are we being equal towards our women cricketers?

While their male counterparts failed miserably, the English women's team comprehensively won the only Test in the Women's Ashes series down under this summer © Getty Images
While their male counterparts failed miserably, the English women’s team comprehensively won the only Test in the Women’s Ashes series down under this summer © Getty Images

By Sudatta Mukherjee

When Australia whitewashed England 5-0 earlier this month in the Ashes down under, the whole world broke into celebrations and discussions. The Ashes  is the most watched series. At the same time, India went to South Africa and even though India played below level, it was one of the most discussed series. It’s really funny how much we give importance to men’s cricket and ignore women cricketers at the same time.

On Thursday, Nicole Bolton became the first Australian women cricketer to score a century on debut in one-day cricket. Her knock of 124 helped the Australians post a competitive total of 266. It was not only that; she also ran out Sarah Taylor, who was proving threatening for the Australians. Bolton’s performance helped Australia stay in the race and keep their hopes of retaining the Women’s Ashes alive. Apart from a few excited loyal Ashes fans and feminists, nobody bothered to pay attention to her feat. People were busy watching the Big Bash League [BBL] instead.

In the last ten List A matches Mithali Raj has played, she has scored three centuries and was unbeaten twice. Her knock of 104 not out against Sri Lanka in the 3rd ODI at Visakhapatnam had come from 109 balls at a strike-rate of 95.41. She slammed eight fours and two sixes in her innings. She has been playing for India for the last 15 years and is one of the most famous and best women cricketers in the world. Yet a less experienced male cricketer gets much more attention than her, on any given day.

22-year-old Poonam Yadav is just two ODIs old and she has already taken seven wickets at an average of 4.00 and an economy of 1.40. Gouher Sultana is just 50 ODIs old and has registered consecutive two four-wicket hauls (her last two ODI bowling figures stand four for 15 and four for four). Her bowling average is 19.39 and yet R Vinay Kumar, Ashoke Dinda and Mohit Sharma are discussed more often than her.

India women have won their last seven ODIs and India men’s team has lost four of their last five matches. One can go on and on about the discrimination between men’s and women’s cricket. One can argue that the kind of advertisement men’s cricket receive is far greater and powerful than the women’s. But isn’t it the responsibilities of the cricket boards and International Cricket Council [ICC] to make sure women’s cricket is promoted well?

A men’s Ashes series typically consists of five Test matches. The England tour of Australia 2013-14 comprises of five Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is, which is a lot of cricket. Compared to their male counterparts, the women cricketers play a solitary Test, three ODIs and three T20s – a paltry tour that goes by the name of the Women’s Ashes. Can things be more blatantly unfair and discriminating?

Between April 2013 and February-March 2014, 15 Test series have been scheduled for men. Compared to that, there have been only two Tests – the one-off Tests in the two Ashes tours.

One can blame poor media coverage and an absence of social media to forget that Belinda Clark was the first cricketer (male or female) to score a double century in ODIs. However, what about Bolton’s feat? What about giving importance to the Women’s Ashes as much as men’s?

People are presently crying over how oligarchy will run cricket if ICC’s proposed changes come into action. However, nobody in the world has discussed how openly gender discrimination is practiced in the same sport. But then, that has been going on for millennia centuries, even before the sport was conceived.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)

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