By Sudatta Mukherjee
On February 28, 2012, when Virat Kohli scored an unbeaten 133 to guide India to a seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in a do-or-die match, the Indian media went on an overdrive in burying him with adjectives. When Kohli was named vice-captain of Team India, the same media showered unending praise on him, which he rightly deserved. But when another Indian cricketer got to the top of the ICC ODI rankings for batswomen, there was hardly a ripple in the media. Why? The answer is simple: The player in question is Mithali Raj and the ICC rankings are for women’s cricket.
That modern journalism, especially in India, is not what it used to be is evident from the fact that titillating stuff and off-field trivia of the male cricketers evoke considerably more attention in the mainstream media than global on-field achievement like the one attained by Mithali.
But by now Mithali would have learnt to live with the indifference and bias of the Indian media. How many would know that when Mithali scored a personal best of 214 she had broken the then record for the highest Test score in women’s cricket? How many would know that Mithali has an average of 48.27 in One-Day Internationals and 52 in Tests. How many would know that Mithali has gone on to score 4490 runs from 141 ODI matches?
And Mithali is not the only Indian to make a mark in world cricket. Pacer Jhulan Goswami is nine wickets away from becoming the highest wicket-taker in woman’s ODI history. Jhulan has 181 wickets so far to her credit.
Anju Jain’s 81 dismissals (30 catches and 51 stumping) put her in the fourth place among wicket-keepers in woman’s ODI history.
The unbeaten first wicket partnership of 258 runs between Reshma Gandhi and Mithali Raj in 1999 against Ireland is the third highest for any wicket in women’s ODIs.
In Test cricket, too, Indian women were not far behind. Diana Eduljee is the third highest wicket-taker while Sandhya Agarwal, who scored 190 against England in 1986, overtook Betty Snowball’s the record score of 189.
Neetu David’s eight for 53 against England in 1995 still remains the best bowling figures in an innings in Women’s Test cricket.
The Indian women’s team has won the Asia Cup four times (2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008) and has been finalists in the ICC World T20 for four consecutive years (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012).
Speaking at ther 2012 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, Tony Greig had said: “More women are involved as both players and spectators.” Yet, the women playing the game and their praiseworthy efforts have not got the rightful due.
Writing in The Guardian, Mike Selvey, the former England player-turned-journalist, lamented how women cricketers in England has gone unnoticed despite being one of the best in the world. So the bias against women is not restricted to the Indian media!
It’s time the media got their act right and accord the respect and attention women in sports – not just cricket – deserve.