Still hardly 'equal pay': A financial inquest into women's cricket in India
BCCI's announcement of hiking match fees for women cricketers was widely applauded by many experts, but a closer look reveals that this step is only a drop in the ocean.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) hiked the match wage of centrally-contracted women cricketers to match the sum received by their male counterparts on October 27 - leading to a public euphoria.
The announcement was widely applauded by many experts, including former Indian women's captain Mithali Raj, who labelled it as a "historic" moment for the women's game in India.
However, a closer look reveals that this step, while laudable, is only a drop in the ocean.
The move would see a centrally-contracted player's matchday remunerations multiply six times in the longer formats and three times in T20Is, meaning that she will receive INR 15 lakh for a Test, six lakh for an ODI, and three lakh for a T20I.
While it is a substantial step in the correct direction, it is only the "first step towards tackling discrimination" in Indian cricket, as stated by Jay Shah, BCCI Secretary. What such a decision does is that it further ajars the scope for dialogue and inquest into the financial condition of women's cricket in India, especially domestically.
Central contracts - the most significant gap
Despite the match fees increment, the most obvious and significant pay disparity surfaces when we compare the annual retainers for men's and women's international players.
For instance, Harmanpreet Kaur, who is one of the three players with a Grade A contract, receives INR 50 lakh, which is half the amount received by a male player with a Grade C contract. The highest retainer – Grade A+ – for a male cricketer goes as high as INR 7 crore.
As this following table shows, there's an astronomical difference in the central contracts offered by BCCI to men and women cricketers.
Indian Men's Cricket
Indian Women's Cricket
INR 7 Cr
INR 5 Cr
|INR 50 Lakh|
INR 3 Cr
|INR 30 Lakh|
INR 1 Cr
INR 10 Lakh
As per ESPNCricinfo, talks are being held with premier women cricketers in the country over revising their annual contracts in the coming future.
Match Fees - still only half, effectively
Coming to the hiked match fee itself, when considered collectively, Indian women cricketers will still be earning considerably less than their male counterparts because they play fewer number of games than the latter.
For instance, in the 2022-2025 period, the Indian women will feature in two Tests, 27 ODIs, and 36 T20Is, while the men's team, in the same time frame, will potentially be playing 44 T20Is, 52 ODIs (excluding multi-team event playoffs and 2025 Asia Cup competition) and 34 Tests.
It is noteworthy that the paycheck for women cricketers will be heavily impacted by playing next to no Test matches, a format for which players are paid the most per game.
Therefore, despite the latest announcement, India's women cricketers are still set to get only half of what the men's cricketers will get because they will be involved in half the number of matches.
Furthermore, it is also gauged that from the money bag of BCCI's annual media rights, women players – on the same footing as junior players – get a share of 2.7%, while international men's players gain 13% and domestic players secure 10.3%, as per ESPNcricinfo.
The danger facing domestic cricket
Concerningly, when it comes to women's domestic cricket in the country, the players' economic situation remains a lot more precarious. Most stakeholders in the lower tiers of domestic cricket The Bridge spoke to said a lack of financial stability through cricket is their glaring reality.
"Many women cricketers, by the time they reach their 20s, have to opt-out of cricket due to financial reasons, and many of them work somewhere else to balance their financial needs with cricket," said a BCCI and ICC certified coach.
The match fees for domestic women cricketers was recently increased in 2021 and now amount to INR 20,000 for those in the starting XI and INR 10,000 for the reserves. Comparatively, these are the figures that are also paid to U-19 boys, while senior men receive double or triple the amount, depending on their longevity and seniority.
According to the above-mentioned coach, who wishes to stay anonymous, board-sponsored annual contracts can be game-changers in terms of providing financial safety to domestic women cricketers, and they will be beneficial for the sport overall as they'll allow "the girls at the grassroots level to focus 100% on their cricket."
Though the BCCI is the first among cricket's "Big Three" to roll out match-fee parity for contracted players, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) became the first cricket board to offer equal match fees to its players at the international as well as domestic levels, "across all formats and competitions" earlier this year.
"I would have been happier if the move towards equity began with the domestic rung, because a much larger demographic of women cricketers would have stood to benefit, about 250-300 cricketers," former cricketer and administrator Shanta Rangaswamy told SCMP.
What BCCI could learn from its peers
While it is laudable that the BCCI's step to increase centrally-contracted women cricketers' match fees was seen as a development which the world could follow, there is still a lot the BCCI could learn from other cricket bodies.
If the richest cricket board in the world looks in the direction of its peers such as Cricket Australia, England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and NZC, it will find that these boards have offered domestic contracts to 98, 48, and 72 women players respectively. By Feb 2023, ECB will widen its umbrella to accommodate 80 players.
And by all accounts, in terms of policy-making, providing the domestic players, who construct the spine of a country's cricket system, with a sense of security makes the cricketing ecosystem more conducive for growth and development. In these settings, the chances of talented players leaving the cricket field in search of greener pastures elsewhere also decrease.
The women's IPL, which fans and critics had been demanding for many years and has finally been officially announced by the BCCI, can go a long way in enhancing the financial and qualitative condition of women's cricket in India.
While we wait and see the fruition of the much-anticipated women's IPL, the need to protect and provide for the domestic game and those playing it, is unambiguous.