Shafali Verma’s rapidfire 50 is evidence that the Indian cricket board needs to promote the women’s game more
Purists might argue that it is a bit unfair to compare men’s and women’s sport even in the same game. But the recent achievement by teenage sensation Shafali Verma, who at two months short of 16 years struck an international 50 in a T20 international against the West Indies, is quite an achievement. Alongside the spectacular success of the Indian women’s team in the last cricket world cup as well as the achievements of various members of the team, maybe it is pertinent to pose the question to the new boss of Indian cricket, Sourav Ganguly, on whether it is time for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or whatever new name that he wishes to give that organisation, to hold a professional Indian Premier League (IPL)-style contest for the women’s game.
Critics might argue that the pool of talent in the women’s game is far more limited. For the time being, this is a valid argument but only if there is a eight-team tournament for the IPL. A smaller, four-team tournament with additional slots for international talent may easily meet the competitive marks needed by any such competition. Evidence of the success of the short form of the women’s game is seen in Australia, where the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), which is played alongside the Australian T20 league, the BBL, has been a huge success and has made superstars out of players like Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy. Its inaugural games unearthed a 16-year-old gem in Phoebe Litchfield. The tournament has dramatically expanded Australia’s women’s cricket talent pool and with Cricket Australia committing to pay all its cricketers equally, they have taken the lead when it comes to equal opportunities. It will take a man to change the dynamics between men’s and women’s cricket in India and bring them to some level of parity. Sourav Ganguly can easily be the one. He was the visionary leader who laid the foundations of the success that Virat Kohli and his men enjoy today, over a decade after he retired. No Indian cricket fan doubts his dynamism and leadership abilities. Now, freed of the burden of the Committee of Administrators, Ganguly can effect lasting change. Change that can mean that girls like Shafali Verma can become superstars for every single Indian, much like the man whose record she broke, Sachin Tendulkar.