March 8 is International Women’s Day. It is a day which celebrates the concept of womanhood. There are certain themes designed which highlight the plight, ambition and desires of women in various walks of life. In the modern world, women are making a mark in every field, be it politics, arts, diplomacy, culture, science, technology and also in the world of sport. In India, women are waging a war against patriarchy and in the recent #MeToo movement, the issue of sexual harassment at workplaces and in other instances came to the fore with women finally speaking out. However, when it comes to equality for women in India, there is still plenty of work left to be done.
The BCCI Central Contracts list, which was released for both men and women on Thursday, is a classic case in the disparity women cricketers face in India. In the men, players like Jasprit Bumrah, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have been put in Grade A+ of the BCCI contract list and they earn an annual retainer of Rs 7 crore. There is a Grade A bracket where players like Rishabh Pant get Rs 5 crore as the annual retainer. The lowest bracket which is Grade C has a annual retainer of Rs 1 crore.
In the women’s category, the highest category was Grade A and it included players like Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Poonam Yadav. However, this is the catch. The annual retainer sum paid to the women cricketers was Rs 50 lakh, which is 10 times lesser than the Grade A contract of the men cricketers and 14 times less than the A+ bracket.
In an exclusive chat with News Nation, Shantha Rangaswamy, under whom the India women’s cricket team won a Test for the first time and who became the first women player to be conferred the BCCI Lifetime Achievement award, summed up the discrepancy in a blunt manner. “One of the questions that I have encountered when I have tried to pitch in the question of equal pay is that ‘what is the revenue that comes from women’s cricket?’. In India, the son is given preferential treatment from the daughter and it is the same in cricket,” Rangaswamy said.
Indian women’s cricket team has made giant strides in cricket for the last couple of decades. Mithali Raj is the leading run-getter in ODIs and is a legend of women’s cricket while Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur are the new-age women cricketers who play aggressively and display tremendous confidence under pressure. India made the final of the 2017 World Cup in England and had reached the semi-final of the World T20 in 2018, giving competition to Australia, England and New Zealand, countries who have had a women’s team for a longer period than India.
Despite the massive pay discrepancy, Rangaswamy chose to look at the positives. “Now, there is at least a contract system which was brought in when Anurag Thakur was the head of the BCCI. However, it is sad that the vast gap continues even today,” Rangaswamy rued.
One hopes that in future International Women’s Days, the disparity between the earnings of men and women’s cricketers reduces considerably. Afterall, women’s cricketers are also breaking barriers and making a mark on the international stage.