2017 was a watershed year for Indian women’s cricket with the team reaching the finals of the World Cup in England and almost pulling off a famous win.
After the semi-final win against Australia, Harmanpreet Kaur was suddenly the toast of the nation, with multiple articles and listicles devoted to her after her superlative undefeated effort of 171 runs. This was incidentally the highest individual score in the knockout stages of a World Cup. The final even went on to become the highest rated women's sports event ever on television in terms of viewership.
Many believed that the time had come for women’s cricket to stand on its own and for the cricketers to emerge from the shadows of their more illustrious male counterparts. However, it seems nothing much has changed on the ground and the second-class treatment of women’s cricket in India continues.
Both the men’s and women’s teams are currently playing ODIs in South Africa - the men’s team is involved in a bilateral series while the women’s team is competing as part of the ICC Women’s Championship.
In the first ODI, the women’s team beat South Africa by 88 runs, and it was the team’s first match since the World Cup in July 2017. The Championship gives both the teams a chance to directly qualify for the next World Cup, which will be held in 2021.
However, this match was not broadcast in the country, while the men’s matches were being “shown live, analysed, previewed and reviewed (in two languages)”. The only way for viewers to get updates on the match was the Cricket South Africa (CSA) Twitter handle. Even the BCCI Women Twitter handle got it wrong and the tweet was later deleted.
Why was the match not broadcast?
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) put the onus on CSA, and told Scroll that they “do not have the right to produce matches outside India.” The official BCCI handle did not even deem the women’s match worthy enough of a tweet.
Sony, which has been broadcasting the men’s matches, informed a user on Twitter that they can watch the third, fourth and fifth T20 matches of the women’s team on the channel.
So, why are these being shown? These are matches that the men’s and women’s teams play on the same day on the same ground.
The Board was called out by multiple users on Twitter as well.
Cricinfo's scorecard may be" live" now but yet not accurate. Crazy that the 3rd & 4th best teams in the world are playing in a World Cup qualifying match, but we have to piece together what's happening via twitter. #SAvIND #ICCWC https://t.co/U92aPh91am— hypocaust (@_hypocaust) February 5, 2018
@BCCIWomen and @OfficialCSA, you have a great chance to consolidate women's cricket fan following but no broadcast of the women's #SAvInd series is unpardonable. @ICC @SuperSportTV @SPNSportsIndia #SSCricket #IndvSAonSonyTen3— Jason Monserrate (@jasonzmad) February 5, 2018
Why you are not telicast women's cricket matches. Why you are not supporting them. Why?— bishoyibandana (@bishoyibandana) February 6, 2018
There you go. The viewership momentum gained after the Women’s World Cup is being squandered on a daily basis while team performances keep rising. Women’s cricket is very competitive now. Deserves TV coverage and a platform of the sort women’s tennis has. https://t.co/4Ge9m8SzkT— Nikhil Mehra (@TweetinderKaul) February 6, 2018
It’s sad how women still have to fight for equality! @BCCI this is how you treat the women who are making our country proud!? SHAME.— Paulomi⚡️ (@iipaulomi) February 6, 2018
@BCCI shame on u you are the richest cricket board nd u r not able to upload atleast highlights of women's cricket match... atleast south Africa give mini highlights. So embracing for our country...— abhinaw (@abhinaw13) February 6, 2018
Sharda Ugra, a sports journalist and senior editor with Cricinfo and ESPN India told TNM that it was a backward step.
“The lack of live coverage as of now of the SA-India women’s series is a backward step after the euphoria and interest in the women’s game that arose following the 2017 Women’s World Cup – for the first time in decades, the Indian women’s team has been given a proper calendar of international matches and television coverage should have logically followed. Broadcasters prerogatives and limitations are their own business, but when governing bodies sell media rights, they need to be more alert to ensure that live coverage of the women’s games also forms part of the entire rights bundle,” she told TNM.
As journalist Zenia D’Cunha wrote for Scroll, “The subtext is there for all to see: Receive felicitations when you perform well but don’t expect much when actually playing. Don’t wait for television coverage or people to follow it. You’ll get TV coverage eventually, when there is a double header with the men or when you play in India. Till then, wait for the boys to play, you can have your moment then.”