PAVITHRA GOVINDARAJAN

How many of us know these names “Suman Bala, Mithali Raj, Mamta Kharab, Neetu David, Surinder Kaur, Jhulan Goswami”? Probably none! They all are our unsung Indian women sport stars, who have earned glory for India in the field of hockey and cricket.

It is not our fault that we do not know them; it is because they don’t endorse, they don’t have big sponsors, their matches are not relayed, their posters are not printed, newspapers don’t sing their achievements and no award ceremonies. In spite of all these, they play for our country with the same passion and did us proud without expecting much in return.

In 2002, Indian girls had a tough cricket tournament against the British. Against all odds our “women in blue” proved themselves on foreign soil. The 19-year-old Mithali Raj set the Taunton ground ablaze with her spectacular world record double century and world record 7th wicket partnership with Jhulan Goswami.

Mithali is the fifth person to record a double century in the history of women’s cricket. The star performer of the match Jhulan Goswami took 10 wickets with her lethal bowling. She is also the first Indian woman to do so. The Indian men’s cricket team took almost four decades to record their first Test series win in England; the eves have done it in half the time.

Their relentless efforts took them to the finals of the 2005 Women’s World Cup in South Africa. Unfortunately they lost the finals to the Aussies but their glorious efforts did not receive any attention. Whereas the Indian men’s cricket team also lost their finals in the World Cup but the treatment meted out was different. “The sport is the same but the treatment of women is different. The rules of the game are the same, but the revenue is different.”

The state of women’s hockey, “our national sport,” is even more pathetic. In hockey our women players are kept in the dormitory of the stadium, they wash their own clothes (uniforms) to wear for the next match. In 2004, the women’s team won the Asia Cup against Japan.

The win did not have any significant impact on their lives. They are stars for one day. Guess what they got after winning the Asia Cup? Rs 25,000 each. The men’s hockey team on the other hand was given Rs 1.5 lakh by Sahara India Parivar for the same achievement. In 2005, the men’s hockey team dumped, but our female stars won a four-nation tournament in Singapore outclassing South Korea in the finals.

On September 5, 2007, the men’s cricket team registered a victory against the English team at Oval to equalise the series and the women’s hockey team registered a victory against Singapore in Asia Cup to top Pool-A. Both the teams had performed excellently. Both were international level matches.

The next day leading news channels hyped the cricket team’s victory. No doubt they performed well, but the victory of the hockey team was not even mentioned in any of the channels. The news channels gave importance to Shilpa Shetty’s fashion show but they failed to highlight the women hockey players’ achievement.

On one hand we have our “men in blue” enjoying all perks and privileges of being a national player. They are entitled to travel in business class even within the country, big sponsors’ names sported on team uniforms, palatial hotels to stay, n number of television channels telecasting their matches, a plethora of awards given away and exorbitant match fees.

On the other hand our “women in blue” travel in sleeper class, hardly find sponsors. No TV channels relay their matches. The awards and rewards are not on a par with their male counterparts. Both in hockey and cricket women players face difficulties in finding a job unlike their counterparts who hold lucrative jobs in big companies.

Women in these sports give their heart and soul even after these problems; it’s time for our politicians, sports ministers to pay due attention to them.

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