From out-of-pocket pay to equal pay with men, Diana Edulji on the giant leap for Indian women cricketers

Former India captain Diana Edulji played at a time when the game was run by the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI), she and her teammates had to pay out of pocket to play for the country, even at a World Cup, and Gaming fees were outrageous.

Edulji, now 66, a former Management Committee member, says wage parity on match fees announced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after an Apex Council meeting is a “Diwali gift” to women cricketers and the reward for them progress on the field.

With the first women’s IPL to be staged in March next year, Edulji believes cricketers cannot ask for more.

“It’s a boost and now a lot more girls will be showing up and playing domestic cricket and making a name for themselves. IPL (women) is coming and all is set for a great career in women’s cricket in India,” Edulji told The Indian Express.

Diana Edulji Former Indian captain Diana Edulji. (FILE)

The match fee increase for centrally contracted women cricketers will result in them being paid Rs 15 lakhs per Test match, Rs 6 lakhs for a One-Day International and Rs 3 lakhs for a T20 International. Until now, women cricketers were paid Rs 1 lakh for a white ball match and Rs 4 lakh for a test.

“With this announcement, the BCCI has taken a major step towards recognizing cricket and cricket women,” added Edulji.
Current India captain Harmanpreet Kaur tweeted: “Really a red day for women’s cricket in India with the announcement of equal pay for women and men. Thank you @BCCI and @JayShah.”

Retainership for women cricketers remains the same – Rs 50 lakh for Class A, Rs 30 lakh for Class B and Rs 10 lakh for Class C. The male players who play a higher number of matches are paid between Rs 7 crore and Rs 1 crore depending from their grade, with an A-Plus grade being the highest.

In Edulji’s time – she played for India from 1976 to 1993 – there was no money and basic facilities in women’s football.

“We traveled in unreserved compartments. We couldn’t help it, there was no money. It wasn’t until BCCI took over women’s cricket in 2006 that things began to look better. I will have no regrets. We also paid out of our own pockets, but we played out of passion. Now they (the current team) have to play with passion and pride because they represent the board and the country, which is very prestigious.”

The WCAI was so short on cash that players like Edulji were asked to pay 10,000 rupees out of their own pocket to attend the 1982 edition of the World Cup in Australia.

“We had no playing fees and we paid to play. When we went to Australia for the World Cup, each girl was asked to pay 10,000 rupees to play for India, which was a lot of money. There were four of us from Maharashtra and we appealed to Chief Minister AR Antulay. We said we didn’t have the money. He wrote the check straight away,” Edulji recalls.

Earlier Thursday, BCCI Secretary Jay Shah tweeted: “I’m pleased to announce @BCCI’s first step in fighting discrimination. We are implementing a pay equity policy for our contracted @BCCIWomen cricketers. Match fees for cricket men and women will be the same as we enter a new era of gender equality in cricket.”

However, the BCCI is not the first to introduce wage parity. Earlier this year it was announced that women cricketers in New Zealand would receive the same match fees as men.

Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) CEO Tom Moffat said in a text message to The Indian Express: “This is clearly a really positive move for the game and for players in India. Following the recent announcement regarding the women’s IPL, we hope this will be another step towards gender equality in all areas of football in India and in other countries around the world.”

BCCI President Roger Binny said in a statement: “At our Apex Council meeting today we made a marquee decision on equal pay for our women cricketers. Our women players receive the same playing fees as men in international cricket. This decision positions the platform for the growth and development of cricket. I believe this is a significant step forward for women’s cricket and the game as a whole.”

When Edulji was a member of the BCCI’s Administrative Committee, women cricketers received one-off benefit payments and a pension was paid to those who had played fewer than 10 Test matches, while current players’ travel and stay were also updated. It eliminated players from having to share rooms in five-star hotels, business class travel became the norm and daily allowances were raised to match those of the men’s team.

“With the start of the women’s IPL, I think there’s nothing more women cricketers can ask for. They’re about to get everything they need because they’re playing well. It’s also about time the players also give back an ICC trophy to the country,” Edulji said.

In the last half dozen years, the results on the field of the Indian women’s team have shown a remarkable upturn. They almost won the 2017 World Cup over 50 in England, falling in a cliffhanger against the hosts. They also reached the 2020 World T20 Championship final and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games summit earlier this year, losing to Australia both times. They also recently won the Asia Cup for the seventh time in eight editions and a first ODI series in England in more than two decades.

Edulji said the 2017 World Cup final at Lord’s was the turning point for the game in India.

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