One APF doesn’t make the summer

It is difficult to say if Roshani Bohara is a happy lady or not. Roshani is a cricketer from Baitadi. She must be happy for being named the player-of-the-series during the Women’s National T20 championship. The title came about as she scored 99 runs and claimed six wickets during the tournament. Along with the title, Roshani got richer by Rs 10,000.

She could be a touch sad with the cash award though. Last time the same award for a player in Men’s National T20 championship carried a purse of Rs. 15 thousand. In fact, Roshani’s purse would be considered good, if you take into account the amount title winning team got: all of Rs. 25,000. Compare that to the title winning team in men’s: Rs. 125,000.

That shows the discrepancy in the way men and women are treated in sports. It’s not that such things happen only in Nepal. Women’s World T20 was being played during the Men’s World T20 Cricket. Not many people took notice, for it was not mentioned much in media.

The amount of media coverage for Women’s National T20 championship has been comparable. Mainstream media carried it, but reluctance was visible, for it received lesser column centimeters.

This column is not an attempt to do what Tennis player Billie Jean King did, asking for prize money at par with male tennis players. A few other women Tennis players like Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Jennifer Capriati and Steffi Graf, over the years, also joined the outcry. In fact, in 1972, after winning the US Open Jean King threatened to boycott the Grand Slam the following year if she was not paid equally.

The question here is not about pay. But what needs to be done, or rather what is not being done. It’s a common knowledge that Nepal has bagged ACC U-19 Women’s championship three times in a row. In fact, Nepali women have made sure no other team takes the title in any of the abovementioned championship held so far.

Nepal U-19 Women’s Team during a practice match at Tribhuvan University Cricket Ground, Kathmandu. Photo: Self

At the senior level, Nepali women were runners-up in ACC Women’s tournament in 2007 (25-over-a-side). Following that, we’ve not been able to go beyond semi-finals in the biennial event (as it was converted to ACC Women’s T20 championship).

This shows that Nepali women’s cricket does have potential. The good show at age-group and lack of similar achievement shows that something has not been done right. It’s just about focusing on what to do. As of now, Armed Police Force is the only organization that employs women cricketers, giving opportunity to 11 players who’ve represented Nepali team at international level. That explains why APF got the title, but it also raises a question as how long can we rely on only one organization, to develop women’s cricket.

Right after the Dashain festival, Nepali women will be playing ACC Women’s T20 Asia Cup – owing to semi-final finish at ACC Women’s T20 championship last year – where teams from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will also play. Now to perform at that level, you need a team that has some confidence. Confidence is also a result of motivation that players receive. Awards definitely are one of the motivating factors. Other is institutionalization of cricket, and the cricketers. It would be only fair to say that precious little has been done so far.

We might remember that Nepal women’s cricket (Nepalgunj) was given Global award for Best Women’s Cricket Initiative by ICC in 2006. Of course, it was recognition of what Cricket Association had done so far. The award should have worked as a shot in the arm and development should have continued. It’s never late to start though.

CAN has already impressed yours truly by organizing National T20 Championship in Pokhara, first time any national cricket tournament was held in mofussil in past 9 years. It’s good, if development continues.

When the men cricketers were given salary by CAN earlier this year – after announcing stipend for national cricketers – former captain of Nepali women’s team, Neera Rajopadhyay posted on her facebook page: “What do you understand by national cricketers?”

Hopefully, next such development will not miss women cricketers.

(PS: This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column in The Kathmandu Post  – OFFSIDE – on 6 Oct, 2012)

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