The BCCI announced the Annual Player Contracts for Indian National Women’s Cricket team for the period October 2020 to September 2021, offering contracts to 19 players; 3 players in Grade A, 10 in Grade B and 6 in Grade C. The three players receiving a grade A contract are Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Poonam Yadav. Players in Grade A will get INR 50 Lakhs annually, while players in Grade B and C will receive 30 and Lakhs respectively.
The pay scale announced for the female cricketers is drastically low when compared to their male counterparts. The stark difference can be gauged from the fact that the top-graded Men’s players get a massive 7 crores annually, which is 14 times what the top-graded Women cricketers will be getting. Not just that, the lowest graded male players get twice that of the highest graded female players. Overall, the BCCI pays INR 96 crores for 28 men and just INR 5.1 crores for 19 women.
In 2015-16 when the top-graded male cricketers got 1 cr, the top-graded female cricketers got just 15 lakhs. 5 years down the line, the gap has widened even more. While the performances of both teams have been on a steady rise, the pay scale does not hold the same look. Yes, the game is still a long way to go when it comes to equal pay, but the gulf in pay announced by BCCI is too large to be justified by any reason.
The BCCI is unarguably the richest cricket board globally, and the players under them are some of the most paid cricketers across the globe. But what goes unheeded is the gargantuan aperture when it comes to investment in men and women’s cricket by the board. The issue is not something that has come up recently, it has continued for a very long time. But the general logic of performance being proportional to pay also does not justify the current gap in payscale; the Women’s team has reached the finals twice in the last 3 ICC events.
One can argue that Women’s cricket does not bring in much revenue. But given the difference in the number of games played by the Men and Women’s teams, it is the BCCI that has to be blamed. The Women’s team did not play any international game for almost a year after their appearance in the World T20 finals in 2020, which was the most attended women’s match ever. While teams like Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa, West Indies, and Pakistan played multiple series in the same period, the Indian cricketers got to play only a 3-match league in the middle of the lucrative IPL in UAE. After all, the onus of bringing in the commercial value is on the marketing team of the BCCI and not on the players.
With the Indian Women team making heads turn with their performance like that in the T20 World Cup in 2020, it’s time for the BCCI to cash in on the growing popularity and make the game grow. And for that, they need to invest more wealth and provide better incentives to the players and motivate the budding cricketers even more.