Harmanpreet Kaur, India’s women’s cricket captain, is a household name. However, like many women around the world, she has been underpaid.
All that changed last week when Kaur led her team to the pitch in Mumbai, Australia, for the first of five T20 matches.
For the first time ever, the international Indian women’s team is being paid the same amount per match.
It was a moment like this that Kaur experienced when she first began playing cricket at school.
Growing up with boys, she credits her aggressive batting skills to them. However, this early training ground was not a choice.
Young girls who desired to follow the nation’s most revered pastime had few options.
Kaur was finally recognized for her talent, but it took some words from Sachin Tendulkar, former cricketer, and women’s captain before she could make her passion a career.
Kaur was a household word by 2017. Kaur had already broken the record for the highest score at a knockout stage in a women’s World Cup.
She and her team struggled to find the right equipment for their kit bag.
Kaur stated, “If I talk to my experience, it’s totally different now [compared with] how it began and how it’s going.”
“[The] coming years are important, and we will see many changes.
“It’s an outstanding choice taken by [Indian cricket board].
“As sportspeople, we always want… recognition. Equal pay will bring lots of motivation for current players as well as future stars.”
In October, the Board of Control for Cricket in India announced equal match fees for both its male and female international teams.
This is the first time that a payment scheme has been implemented in the current T20 series against Australia.
Female players will now receive the equivalent of $28,000 in Test matches and $5,000.00 for T20s.
One-day matches will now be paid at $10.800 each — an increase of 500 percent.
India is the second country to implement pay parity for female cricketers. The same scheme was also implemented in New Zealand in July.
Kaur stated, “I believe that’s motivational, and it gives you a lot more responsibility.”
“When we began, nobody was going to the stadium to see how hard we worked in the field.
“People recognize us now when we go out, and many people want to meet with us. They want to chat, and that has completely changed my life.”
After a tie-breaking super, Sunday’s match attracted a full house of 45.238 people, with the hosts winning.
Pay decisions are the result of generations of female cricketers fighting for equal rights.
Although match fees have been equalized, India’s women players still earn lower contractual salaries than their male counterparts.
Latika Kumari, a former Indian national cricketer and coach said that even a few years back, players had to purchase their food while on tour. The male team flew business class to matches.
She said, “Equal pay is late. Now I can see that Indian women’s cricket will grow slowly. It’s a process. And now this is moving in the right direction.”
“More girls can choose this sport as a career so they will be financially strong, and parents won’t have to worry too much about what their daughters will do after cricket.”
While sportswomen in other countries are making great progress, there are still many gaps.
This is what India’s female cricketers hope to do for the rest.
Australia’s women’s team is among the most highly paid in the country. Cricket Australia, however, acknowledged that there was still a “big difference” between the women’s and men’s leagues.
“But there’s still a gap, there’s still a really big gap,” Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley stated at the time.
“And we will continue to strive to make it an attractive and credible full-time professional career for our up-and-coming female cricketers.”
Ellyse Perry, an Australian all-rounder, is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding female cricketers in the globe. She was the youngest Australian player to play international cricket at 16.
She claims that she has seen the sport grow for women since her debut.
She said, “I think it’s an evolutionary process.”
“Reflect on where you’ve been in the past five to six years. Now, consider where you’re going. It is still moving.
“I believe it reflects a lot of societal change as well as, more broadly speaking, the place of women at work and the equality we always talk about.
“So, from that perspective, I believe there’s much more to do, but we’re going to continue pushing.”
Perry and her team celebrated India’s new deal. Megan Schutt, a seam bowler, said that she hopes Australia will soon follow suit.
She said, “I’ve got all my fingers crossed.”
“I don’t believe it’ll be in my lifetime. My career is at the end.
It was semi-professional when I started, and we barely got paid. It’s progressing, so I’m happy with where I am now.
The dramatic result of the second match in the series, which was played to a sell-out crowd, sent a strong message to critics who claim women’s sports aren’t as exciting as men’s.
Star Indian batter Smriti Manna stated that she believes this was one of the most enjoyable games she’s ever been part of.
Schutt claims that the larger crowds are due to greater promotion and support. Both teams’ captains were prominently featured on billboards and newspapers in Mumbai during the build-up to the matches.
She said, “It made it for one helluva atmosphere.”
“I believe it’s just continuing advertisement. If I’m being honest, the biggest thing is to change perceptions and gain respect from men.
“Obviously, there are many things that come into play, like resources, and it means we can train full-time like we have been capable of for the past five years, and… we’ve had lots of success since then.”
Top cricketers still have cultural barriers to women’s roles
India’s new deal will allow players to focus on cricket and not work extra jobs to satisfy their needs, but there are still social hurdles regarding women playing cricket.
Kumari stated that family is important because there isn’t equality in India between boys and women.
“This is true in women’s sports, not just cricket but also in women’s sporting.”
“Thankfully, my family supported and encouraged me throughout my years. But I have also seen girls who, due to family pressure, cannot pursue this career.
“This pay decision could make it possible for them to [support] their daughters in cricket as a career.”
GS Harry, a women’s cricket coach, believes that parental concerns have been a major barrier to girls participating in the sport.
We face difficulties sometimes because our parents don’t allow us to let our daughters play. They are concerned about safety. He said that some parents stay even after practice sessions are over.”
“The pay deal allows for live telecasting of matches, media spotlight, and live telecast. This encourages young girls and their families to get involved in cricket.
“Parents feel that their daughters are equal to their sons”
Overall, India’s gender pay gap has been decreasing, but the pandemic made a significant dent in this progress.
The World Inequality Report 2022 shows that the ratio of women and men in India is nearly equal. However, men make up 82% of India’s total labour income.
It is ranked among the worst countries for income equality and gender equality.
Players hope that equal pay in a sport that is so dominant will be an example to the rest of the country.
Kumari stated, “Sport is sport, male or female, they’re doing their hard work as well as physical, work and skills.”
It’s on the same page now. We should all get the same thing for the rest of the country if we get it.
Although women’s cricket has much to do before it reaches the same level as men’s, the next generation in India of female cricketers is reaping the rewards of the hard work of their predecessors.
Komal Kirad is currently training at the GS Harry Cricket Academy and hopes to one day play for the Indian National Team.
She said, “This is a great decision…better late than never.”
“Now, we are equals so that future players have that feeling of equality when playing… they feel proud and encouraged to play for India.
“People think it’s very positive that you play cricket. They feel proud that girls can also play cricket when they are boys.”