Mithali Raj spoke about the changing perception about women’s cricket, stressing on the need to ‘chalk out a plan’ to make the sport grow.
In a bid to build on the buzz created by the hugely successful ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, the International Cricket Council organised the ICC Women’s Cricket Forum 2018 – the second edition of the conference – in Kolkata last month.
As explained by the organisers, the idea was to bring as many stakeholders of women’s cricket as possible under one roof and chart the way forward.
“This is the second edition of the Women’s Cricket Forum, and following on from the extremely successful ICC Women’s World Cup last year, the main aim of this forum is to maintain that momentum,” said Holly Colvin, ICC Women’s Cricket Manager.
Elaborating, Colvin said, “There’s been a real shift in the coverage of women’s cricket and the appetite from the audience of women’s cricket. I think it’s vital to bring stakeholders together, to have that face-to-face time, to build relationships that network, and more importantly, learn off each other. For members to learn off their experiences and for us as ICC to learn off them as well. That’s been a really key process of work for everyone.”
Mithali Raj, captain of the India Women Test and one-day international teams, who became the first woman to score 6000 ODI runs during the course of the World Cup, inaugurated the forum and spoke of the importance of the gathering.
“When you have these meetings, you sit down and you chalk out a plan where you can help the sport to grow better and better in the coming years,” said Raj. “The way people see women’s cricket has changed. There is no more of the ignorance about the way girls play cricket. Cricket is not any more limited to men’s cricket.
“People do discuss about women’s cricket and they do talk about what’s happening in women’s cricket. It’s just not limited to even men. Women also, like the housewives, grannies, everyone enjoys watching women’s cricket.”
Back in 2005, Colvin had become the youngest person to play Test cricket for England, at 15 years and 336 days of age. The left-arm spinner was drafted in for the first Ashes Test and 3/67 in the first innings. She, however, left the game at 26 to join the ICC, and explained how things were so different in her time as compared to now.
“I was lucky enough to be a player back in 2005 when I made my debut. I got called on the phone the night before the game. I was still at school, I had bowled in the nets, and I turned up to play; I didn’t even know who my opposition were,” she said.
“Fast forward to now, and you’ve got fully professional players, you’ve got heroes of the sport, you’ve got young girls who want to be the next Ellyse Perry, the next Sana Mir. They’ve got those role models that they can see.
“It’s getting normal now that a girl is just as likely to pick up a bat as a boy. That’s where the mentality is that you want to get to. I think globally, in terms of a movement for gender equality, is a real shift. Whether it’s in sport, whether it’s in entertainment, now is a brilliant time to be a woman, let alone a woman in sport.”
Also present at the forum, along with representatives of various cricket boards and other stakeholders, was Piyush Pandey, the celebrated Indian advertising guru who is now Executive Chairman with Ogilvy South Asia.
Stressing on the importance of building on the momentum, Pandey said, “To see so many young ladies from around the world, not just India, just playing the game as if it comes naturally to them really delights me. I think we have to promote the game.
“It was delightful for me to see how Lord’s was filled up in the last World Cup. If a lot of us do a lot of activities, excite men and not just women, women’s cricket should be appealing to everybody and not just women, and we must try and find ways and means to excite the fans.”