P.K. Ajith Kumar
KOZHIKODE: Having played and watched women’s cricket for several years, A.P. Sabeeja is convinced the sport is finally ready to take off in Kerala. The former State player who is now a selector at the on-going State senior women’s championship here says the women’s game has now become an attractive proposition.
“Look at the way this tournament is being organised; I wish I had an opportunity to dive around on a lush green outfield like this,” she says, watching the action at the Corporation Stadium.
“The merging of the State women’s organisation with the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) has done wonders for the girls.”
E. Rensy, one of the brightest stars in Kerala women’s cricket, nods in agreement. “Now we get free accommodation and food as well as daily allowances, which wasn’t the case earlier,” says the Kozhikode-based allrounder who has represented South Zone. “Now we get to play on excellent grounds and have better coaches.”
KCA secretary T.C. Mathew promises more good things for the State’s cricket-playing females.
“We have begun a programme to attract women from other sports to take up cricket as a second game so that we could have a wider base,” he elaborates. “A woman cricketer can now earn up to Rs. 50,000 per year by representing the State; so I feel we will be able to get women from other sports to play cricket.”
He adds the KCA has also plans to catch them young. “We are going to promote women’s cricket in schools and colleges in a big way,” he says. “We will send coaches to all the districts and at least 10 schools and colleges will be provided ‘nets’ facilities.”
Sabeeja points out that there has been steady improvement in the standard of the game in Kerala. “In the last few years, our senior and junior teams have beaten stronger sides in the South Zone and our young players like Rensy and T. Shani have been noticed by the Zonal selectors,” she says.
And one player from Kerala, V. Vilasini, played for India ‘B’ against the touring Australian and England sides last year. And she learnt her cricket in Palakkad at a time when a girl in Kerala took up cricket only because of passion, fully aware that there was little scope for the sport.
“The players of my generation had little incentives, we often had to pay our expenses,” says Sabeeja. “And only very few cricketers, like Vilasini and T. Shobhana, have been able to get jobs. But things surely will change. There used to be just four or five districts where women’s cricket was played seriously, but in this tournament, all the 14 districts are competing,” she added.