Silly-Point: Whither Women’s Cricket

While Virat Kohli's team is surging ahead in a very un-English and almost Indian summer conditions, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) needs to focus on another important element that comes under its purview — women's cricket.

The recent resignation of Tushar Arothe as the coach of Indian women's cricket team has thrown up few questions about the way the game is being conducted for the ladies in India. The former Vadodara Ranji player had a meeting with the Committee of Administrators (CoA) of the BCCI after reports of a discord between the coach and senior players surfaced in the media, post India's loss of the Asia Cup in Malaysia.

It is believed that the coach and senior players met with the CoA separately which led to the coach tendering his resignation. The BCCI typically cited the nonsensical 'personal reasons' for Arothe's quitting the post.

While the media has been quoting 'sources' representing the BCCI as well as the players on the reasons for Arothe (who did achieve a level of success with the women cricket team during the ICC Women's World Cup with the team reaching the final last year) to resign his position, the truth will be forever lost in the dusky archives of the organisation that has never believed in the word 'transparency.'

Historically, the BCCI and Indian players have never taken the media into confidence unlike other nations which accept the media as an integral part of the cricket environment. Sending amateur and unprofessional personnel as media managers has been the organisations style of working for many years and recently, a new trend has emerged, which does not augur well for the functioning of the BCCI in the long run - buckling under 'star' power.

Whether it is the appointment of coaches, selective playing of matches (domestic or international) or revoking contracts of media personnel, the scary cloak of star power overshadows and pushes decisions to the liking of the disgruntled 'stars.'

Arothe's resignation, one seriously hopes, is not another decision taken by the authorities bowing down to star power. A bone of contention between the women players and the coach was something trivial - the timings of their practice sessions. While the coach wanted two sessions, the players preferred one, long net session. Something that could have been sorted out over a cup of coffee by whoever that looks after women's cricket in the BCCI.

Arothe was critical of the decision taken by the BCCI and came out with a few cryptic statements that are pointing out to the direction women's cricket is heading towards. "You can't allow practice methods to be dictated by the girls. If these girls want to achieve something, they need to come out of their comfort zone. They don't want to do that," said the distraught former coach.

After tasting success in the World Cup in England, the loss to Bangladesh in the Asia Cup was a huge dampener to the hopes that fans had for Indian women cricketers. The positive media surge that followed the team after their World Cup campaign in India - where a few were being compared to their illustrious men counterparts - started to head south after they capitulated in Malaysia, surrendering their Asian crown.

There had to be a fall out after the big loss of the Asia Cup and Arothe seems to have taken the brunt of the same. The BCCI should have discussed the matter jointly with the coach, players and the officials involved with the team rather than holding separate meetings in which the issues could be addressed amicably to help women's cricket go to the next level. One will never know the actual truth as the BCCI continues its ostrich like ways of thrusting its head under the sand and hoping the storm will pass.

Regardless of the positive strides taken by women cricketers in the recent past - apart from their One Day series against Australia, the team performed well against England, New Zealand and South Africa - the infrastructure for women cricketers in India leaves much to be desired.

A comment - "there's hardly any competition and there are no players in the pipeline" - made by Arothe is saddening to those who expect India women's cricketers to get on to the next level.

Former England captain, Nasser Hussain, who was shooting for a documentary film on Mumbai cricket recently, was shocked to see that there were no facilities for women to change or enclosed toilets in the maidans of Mumbai.

If a basic need such as toilets and changing facilities for women cannot be provided by one of the country's richest and premier sports associations, what facilities can one expect in smaller towns and cities in India where bulk of the talent resides? Where does one expect the ladies to play the game without basic facilities being provided to them?

With reforms being the order of the day as far as cricket in India is concerned, the BCCI needs to address a few questions that pertain to women's cricket. Is there a five (or even three) year plan to further women's cricket in India? What facilities, including those that address the basics, has the BCCI planned to spread the game of cricket and attract talent throughout the country?

(The writer is a former Cricket Club of India captain and Bombay University cricketer)