Interview by Abhishek Purohit

January 29, 2013

Diana Edulji, a former India captain and one of the pioneering woman cricketers from the country, represented India between 1976 and 1993. Years after her retirement, she and Shanta Rangaswamy are among the most widely known names in Indian women’s cricket. Edulji has served on the BCCI‘s women’s committee and has also been manager of the Indian women’s team in 2009. She currently works for Indian Railways, which has played a very important role in supporting women’s cricket over the last three decades. Edulji spoke to ESPNcricinfo on the eve of the 2013 ICC Women’s World Cup.
Jhulan Goswami prepares to send down a delivery, India v Pakistan, ACC Women's T20 Asia Cup, Guangzhou, October 28, 2012

Diana Edulji: “The selectors get the maximum [money in Indian Women’s cricket], then come the match referees and then the players” © Andy Campbell/UTPMEDIA

What has actually changed on the ground after the BCCI has come into women’s cricket?
Initially everybody was happy with the merger in 2006, when we requested Mr Sharad Pawar, who was then the president of the board. Earlier the women’s association did not have funds, the players did not have good facilities. [After the merger], domestic players started getting more money, they travelled better, stayed in good hotels and got good grounds to play on. But I think that was just the beginning, and that was it. It was a dream, and then the bubble burst. I am not too happy with the situation at the moment.

The BCCI is running women’s cricket because they have to run it, since the ICC is now running both men’s and women’s cricket.

I would say it is an insult to women’s cricket to be treated this way. There is no cricket. Domestic cricket comprises only one T20 tournament and one 50-over tournament. There are no longer-format matches and no Test matches. I cannot understand why we cannot play one Test match at least during a bilateral series. If Australia and England can play the Ashes, why can’t India play Tests?

When I was on the [women’s] committee, I had an argument with Mr [Shashank] Manohar and Mr Srinivasan. I asked them why we couldn’t play the longer version. When we went to England in 2006, we won a Test series.

The T20 mindset, where you go and hit from the first ball, is not going to help. There is a little bit [of long-form cricket] at Under-19 level, nothing at the Under-16 level. So how is the game going to develop?

The team can have one or two Tests. You don’t have to have seven ODIs or five T20s for the women. You bifurcate the full series, see how many days a team can play, and then work out a schedule. It is not necessary to play only 50-over or 20-over cricket.

Compared to the times you grew up in, what incentive does a young girl have to play the game today in India?
When we started playing, we had nothing. We were paying from our pocket. When I went to the World Cup in 1982, each girl had to pay Rs 10,000 to go to New Zealand. We put it in the papers, and Mr Antulay, the Maharashtra chief minister, came to the rescue of the four Maharashtrian players: myself, Vrinda Bhagat, Anjali [Pendharkar] and Shubhangi [Kulkarni]. He signed a cheque and told us, “You all will go.”

There was a tin shed here [at the Western Railways ground in Mahalaxmi, Mumbai] where there is now a hostel. The Indian team have slept there on tables. They have travelled unreserved in a train from Mumbai to Delhi. Compared to that, what these girls [points to the Western Railways side practising nearby] have got at the moment is absolutely five-star treatment.

But where is the game? Where is the dedication? What we played was total, absolute enjoyment. Even my own team here are not enjoying the game. They are playing because they have got jobs [with Railways] and they are satisfied.

I have been telling the girls that they must not be satisfied with the breadcrumbs thrown at them. Jhulan [Goswami]Mithali [Raj], nobody can throw them out of the team. They have got their backing with their performances. If they demand something, it has to be heard. But they are satisfied.

The board has kept us away because it knows that they are not going to say anything. They threw Shanta [Rangaswamy] out, they threw me out, now Shubhangi is out because Mr Pawar is not there.

All those who are pushing for women’s cricket have been put on the back burner, so there is nobody to present the players’ cases. The people who are in the committee at the moment are all “yes girls”. How many meetings does the BCCI women’s committee have? One in a year, just before the general body meeting. The next year, the committee changes.

Players should be getting the maximum. In women’s cricket, it is the other way round. The selectors get the maximum, then come the match referees and then the players. So how are you going to get girls into cricket?

And what is the domestic match fee? Rs 2500. Where are you going to eat if you stay in a four-star hotel? The fee for T20 is Rs 1250.

When you have a World Cup shifted from a ground to accommodate a Ranji game, what does that say?
It is an absolute disgrace. And why are we having it [the World Cup] only in one centre? Promote it in the smaller areas. When we played in the late 1970s, in Patna, in Jamshedpur, we used to have 30,000 people watching. When we won the Test against West Indies, the scenes were unbelievable. Even at the Eden Gardens, in 1975, the pavilion side was packed with spectators. Maybe people came out of curiosity, but at least crowds came to see the match. Who is coming today?

I am happy with the advertisements that ESPN is doing now on women’s cricket. Like: who is the first person to make an ODI double-hundred? It is a woman. Why is Sachin [Tendulkar] getting credit for the double-hundred? It has to be Belinda Clark [who made a double in 1997].

Now that the BCCI is running cricket, it shouldn’t be that they should run only men’s cricket. They should be happy with the women’s cricket too.

Where are the photos of the women’s team captains in the BCCI office? Why are there only photos of male cricketers? There was not a single ladies’ toilet in the old BCCI office till I went and fought for it.

What about the one-time benefit? Srinivasan has just refused. What have we asked for? We are not asking to be paid at the same level as men’s cricket. All we have asked is that women cricketers who have played between one and ten Test matches should get Rs 10 lakh (approximately US$18,000); those who have played between ten and 20 Tests can get Rs 20 lakh ($36,000).

But when Mr Srinivasan took over as president of the board, he said, “Why should we give you money? What have you all done?”

Mithali has said that India women’s matches must be televised to create visibility. I may be boasting, but when I go to movies or restaurants, I am still recognised. But I am sure if Mithali is with me, she won’t be recognised. It is sad. I still feel nice when someone comes up to me and introduces me to their children. Why shouldn’t these girls get the recognition? Jhulan is a Padma Shri winner – she’s an Arjuna awardee, so is Mithali. Why can’t more articles be written about them?

“What is the domestic match fee? Rs 2500. Where are you going to eat if you stay in a four-star hotel?”

I guess the media also has to be blamed for failing to cover women’s cricket adequately?
Yes. I have been after Arnab [Goswami], Rajdeep [Sardesai], Barkha [Dutt], especially for this one-time benefit. Even the National Commission for Women took it up. What happened? Nothing.

Look at the pension for women cricketers. We are getting Rs 15,000 as pension. Fair enough. But the pension is given only to cricketers who have played five Tests and more. Why? What about people who have played less than five Tests? Suddenly the ICC said some matches have been declared unofficial. Why? We played as India, we went abroad as India. The government gave a sanction for India. Just because the English or Australians said we sent an U-19 or an U-21 team? The International Women’s Cricket Council did not recognise it, so the ICC did not, too. But did you take us or our board into confidence, asking: have you played official series? [Edulji is referring to three series between 1975 and the mid-80s, which included a tour by an Australian women’s team to India in 1975 and a tour to England by the Indian women in 1981.] If a [male] domestic cricketer can get a pension, why not [a woman] who has played even one Test? They get Rs 5000. I cannot understand this logic at all.

What do you think motivates people like you, Jhulan, Mithali and the others to keep going?
It is just the love of the game, even in these circumstances. I was driving and on Marine Drive I saw this whole bunch of red t-shirts coming. I realised it was the India women’s team. They were walking from the hotel to the Wankhede. I stopped my car, and the way they greeted me, I felt nice, but I also felt that this is the Indian national team, and they are walking on the street? And where are they playing? Police Gymkhana, Hindu Gymkhana, Bombay Gymkhana? Would any men cricketers play there?

When I went as the manager for the England tour in 2009, it was cold and we had no warm clothing. I rang up Nike and also informed BCCI that we would need jumpers. I was told, “It is not in the budget.” I said, I don’t care. That is the first time they got jumpers. I am told that, at times, they are even given used kits, left over by men. The sizes don’t match, patches are put [to hide the names]. Is this the way you treat them? This mindset has to change.

I think the media has to have the guts, otherwise women’s cricket will die in a few years. Tell me, where are the back-ups? Where are the U-19 players? I have asked for the Under-19 squad to be given at least one tour. Why will that player come on to the ground? She will pick up another sport, like hockey or squash.

How does a woman make a living out of cricket in these times of inflation?
She can’t. Unless you really click, like Jhulan or Mithali. The only positive is the Railways. Players get a permanent job there. In spite of that, the board is anti-Railway. They won’t let players get an NOC.

What is your match fee? How are you going to survive on it? At least in the Railways, players start with a minimum salary of Rs 15,000-Rs18,000, if they get a Group C job. They also get free medical care and free travel for life.

The Indian Railways is the lifeline of Indian women’s cricket. Air India closed down once the BCCI came in, because they were not an affiliated unit. We were lucky we were affiliated, as we play Ranji. So Railways got an entry, while Air India did not. Services do not have a women’s team. So it is just one organisation.

Sport is on the decline in the Railways too. Jobs are not easy to get.

What about the grassroots level? The Ministry is talking about the core group – those who are shining at Asian or Commonwealth level – so is the Railways. But where did they come up from? You have to give them the support at the grassroots for them to come up.

Belinda Clark looks on ahead of a game against England, Somerset, September 2, 2005

Belinda Clark, the first player in history to hit a double-century in ODIs, is now a part of Cricket Australia’s Centre for Excellence © Getty Images

Are there any decent players on the horizon? What after Jhulan and Mithali go?
No, because there’s hardly anything happening at the Under-19 and Under-16 levels. It just shows that they are not interested in letting it go further. Look at the set-up in Australia and England. It is so professional.

The ECB have arranged jobs as coaches for their women players…
Yes. And Belinda [Clark] is at Cricket Australia’s Centre for Excellence. They are being respected, their achievements are being recognised.

Do you think the women’s game can be made marketable?
Why not? Anything is marketable. During the IPL I was watching a game with Mr [Lalit] Modi and Mr Pawar and suggested that a five-over game for the women could be held, to promote women’s cricket; an international team could come over; you could mix the Indian players with the internationals and have one match during the semi-finals and one during the final. What is wrong in that? You can do anything if you want to. But if you don’t want to, then all sorts of excuses come forward.

Why is the Indian women’s team not allowed to wear the Sahara logo? Why does the men’s team wear the logo? Sahara pays the BCCI, a share comes to the men. It doesn’t come down to the women. Sahara is the BCCI sponsor. It hasn’t said, “Don’t sponsor the women.” Think about it.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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