How the 'partnership' of top men's cricketers is letting down women's cricket in India
From Virat Kohli to Rohit Sharma 'partnering' up to promote the Women in Blue for the World Cup, a women's cricket fan highlights the dilemmas behind such advertising.
Being a women's cricket fan in India is a frustrating job. Forget about getting any behind-the-scenes content, it's an unenviable struggle to even get match scores and updates on a player's injury on the Indian team's official social media accounts and website. At times, we find out where a series will be broadcasted, if at all it will be, on the eve of the first match.
Even in 2022. Even during a World Cup. Even in a country whose apparent religion is cricket.
We are just a mere sleep away from the Women's Cricket World Cup to kick off in New Zealand from 4th March. And (unsurprisingly so) till about a couple of days back, the official broadcasters had not released a promo for the tournament.
On the other hand, their promo for the India-Sri Lanka Men's T20Is termed the bilateral series as a preparation for 'Mission 2022', in reference to the Men's T20 World Cup scheduled to start in October.
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Clearly, the priorities are not too figured out for the broadcasters.
Better late than never?
A 40-second-long video promo finally dropped with just 4 days to go for the World Cup. Soon, Indian men's cricket captain Rohit Sharma shared it on his Instagram story. Batting superstar Virat Kohli went a step further and put out a post. "Happy days! The World Cup is finally here."
The broadcaster has released a promo celebrating the Indian team and its bond with the fans. Big names from men's cricket are showing their support. Time to stop complaining and get set for this carnival of cricket, then?
But if you are a women's cricket fan, you are never rid of things to rage about.
At the end of Virat's caption, which called for cricket fans to cheer for the Women In Blue, and at the bottom of Rohit's story, was a hashtag - all of two letters, but of immense importance - #ad. Below their profile names were those two revolutionary words of social media marketing - Paid Partnership.
So, the already rolling-in-riches male cricketers want money in return for their show of support for the women playing the same sport, in the same jersey as them? Disappointing.
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At the end of the day, the women's tournament is getting a wider reach, as these stars of the men's game boast a much bigger follower base. It's also a good thing that the broadcaster is spending the bucks to promote the World Cup. Well, that's the line of argument many took on social media.
P for Partnership, P for Problem
As a social media professional, I fully understand why Virat, Rohit and others had to disclose that their post was paid for. My problem is not with those tags and hashtags. I'm simply disappointed that they didn't think about what it would reflect about their attitude towards the women's game when the only post on their social media about the upcoming global tournament is an advertisement gig.
It is in fact about more than just one tweet, one post, or this World Cup. Had these players been sharing their thoughts on women's cricket regularly, or even occasionally, a sponsored post for the broadcaster would not have been abhorrent.
Kohli's last tweet mentioning a women's team cricketer came in August 2020, when he congratulated Deepti Sharma for being honoured with the Arjuna Award, along with Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma (who received the Khel Ratna). For a women's game or tournament, it was back on 8th March 2020, after India's loss in the T20 World Cup Final.
The lack of interest and support shown by high-profile male cricketers is one reason why the authorities in India don't feel the 'pressure' to invest more in women's cricket.
With power comes responsibility, no?
Many other countries have player associations made up of both male and female players, who have been building pressure on their cricket boards to bring out policies for the welfare of the women's game and the players.
Bangladesh captain Nigar Sultana recently revealed that their men's team had shared tips with them about the New Zealand conditions.
Virat, Rohit and the others need not look too far for inspiration. Ravichandran Ashwin takes an active interest in the women's game, hosting discussions on his YouTube channel and even inviting female players to talk about their journey.
Ashwin is an exception. Most of the top Indian male cricketers take to social media only to put out obligatory wishes and condolences, other than the sponsored posts, of course. From those box-ticking wishes for the women's team before a tournament to just a paid post, we are taking the steps backwards.
Virat Kohli has recently been speaking up on issues that concern not just him but others. He is paying the price for it, but he seems to have made peace with that. He even openly contradicted the BCCI President on one occasion.
The disappointed fan in me hopes that Virat will realize the role his voice can play in bringing about a change for the women's game, by making those in power understand that there is actually a lot more they can do.