As unfortunate as it is, women’s cricket in Pakistan is considered second fiddle in comparison to men’s cricket. This is visible from the variance in salary, difference in sponsors and the media coverage of women’s cricket in comparison to men’s. While internationally gains are being made and women’s cricket is getting a larger share of coverage, Pakistan remains far behind.
There are a number of factors which have led us to the present situation. Cultural barriers act as a major obstacle in women being able to make it to the playing field. These stereotypes play havoc with the dreams of many as a sportswoman is seen as nonconforming to the socially acceptable standard of a woman who is asked to sit at home and waits for a stranger (aka husband) to rescue her from her ‘distress as a damsel’. There is also a general apathy in a patriarchal population towards any sport or activity that largely involves women. The recently concluded visit to Pakistan of the West Indies women’s cricket team passed without much fanfare unlike the attention their male counterparts got last year. Same goes for the visit of the Bangladesh’s women’s team that saw the return of international cricket to Karachi much before the tour of the West Indies’ men`s team last year.
Statements made in the past by renowned cricketers also reflect the generic attitude of the society. Shahid Afridi quite famously answered a question about women playing cricket by saying that Pakistani women had great ‘Zaiqa’ in their hands. Waqar Younis suggested decreasing the number of overs in Women’s ODIs because women could not physically cope with playing fifty over matches. Angry comments asking for a ban on Women’s Cricket are abundant on social media whenever the women’s team loses a match or a series.
The Pakistan Cricket Board needs to set out a clear strategy for improving the Women’s game. A strong calendar for women’s domestic cricket needs to be chalked out that should in my opinion include a women’s PSL as well. This would be in line with Australia’s WBBL and India’s WIPL. Even while I write this I realise this might be a case of extra wishful thinking, but such a step is necessary for the development of the women’s game. Seeing Elysse Perry and Sara Taylor play on Pakistani grounds alongside Sana Mir and Diana Baig will be the break that women’s cricket needs in Pakistan. Next year’s PSL which is to be held completely in Pakistan would be the perfect time for this as interest would be high, sponsors would be present and coverage would be substantial.
Here’s to hoping this wish fullness can be realised. Our girls deserve better!