Who is your favourite male cricketer?”, Indian women’s cricket team captain gets asked before the Women’s World Cup in England. “Do you ask that same question to a male cricketer? Do you ask them who their favourite female cricketer is?”, Mithali Raj ripostes. Enter gender politicians. This seemingly innocuous scenario is distorted in every possible way by self-styled feminists so as to fit it into their own narratives of female victimhood. Some adduce it as an example of sexism whereas others hyperbolize it to make Mithali seem like the statue of the “fearless girl” staring down the “charging bull” in New York, the “charging bull” being the male establishment, of course.
Mithali had every right to respond to that stupid question in the way she did. “I didn’t intend to be arrogant, it was just something that came from the heart. I felt it’s a stage for women cricketers, it’s our forum, so the question should be around women’s cricket and not men’s cricket.”, she later testified. The great Indian batswoman wasn’t pandering to any ideologies nor was she peddling certain movements’ misguided, unsubstantiated narratives. She was just another cricketer who was offended by a question that had nothing to do with the press briefing.
To give you a better picture of the scheme of things, take this incident for instance: Virat Kohli was asked during the Champions Trophy whether he was inspired by Ronaldo’s performance the night before. Kohli responded saying “ask me about cricket”. However, unlike it would be the case with Mithali, this occurrence was not sensationalized for it could not have been fit into any of the regressive leftist narratives. Perhaps, had cricket been a sport dominated by people of colour, and had football been primarily a white man’s sport, this could have been the ideal fodder for the left-wing media as they would have claimed it to be a case of white supremacism. Accusations of racism against McGregor by Mayweather despite trash talking being so common in the run-up to boxing matches is a classic example of how sports are fast becoming a stage for the identity politicians to indulge in their virtue signalling.
In Virat Kohli’s case, it was all about one sport being more popular than the other. It wasn’t too different in Mithali’s case either. It is no secret that men’s cricket is more popular than women’s and thus, the question was stemming from the fact that one version of the sport was more popular than the other. However, gender politicians broaching sexism and patriarchy following the Mithali-Raj incident is symptomatic of women’s cricket picking the wrong enemy to fight against.
The threadbare whip called sexism
During every ICC tournament, gender politicians brace themselves up to write reams and reams of articles about how patriarchal structures within cricket are impeding women’s cricket. More often than not, blames are pinned on sexism, misogyny and male chauvinism for women’s cricket not getting the same attention as men’s cricket. But the very fact that these people pipe up to speak about women’s cricket only when there is an ICC tournament going on, and not during the interlude, clearly evinces the fact that their best interests lie only in pandering to their own narratives rather than improving women’s cricket.
Feminists want to completely monopolize the way in which female cricketers are portrayed in the media. Stereotyping women is one thing; demanding that they be represented only in certain ways is completely a different thing. Thus, if you are a modern feminist, you are more likely to take offence at someone wanting to know about a female cricketer’s, say, a pet dog. “Why do you want to know about her pet dog? Why not inquire about her century in England?”, you might squall. If such questions are reserved only for female cricketers, then feminists’ hissy fits are justified. But aren’t male cricketers asked such questions too? Aren’t male cricketers questioned about their crushes and girlfriends? Aren’t male cricketers asked about their family life? Then, why is it wrong when female cricketers are asked the same types of questions?
Feminists also love to punctiliously run their hypersensitive sexism detector over interviews and TV programs to detect sexism against female cricketers. Take this incident for instance. A former Indian female cricketer writing for FirstPost took offence at the Kapil Sharma Show for inquiring Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Harmanpreet Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy about their marriage instead of speaking about their cricketing achievements. If you think her outrage is justified, then consider this: when Virat Kohli participated in another episode of the same show, a fangirl wanted him to go down on his knees for her since he had already done it for someone else. Now, should I accuse that girl of being misandristic?
A writer for Mumbai Mirror took offence at Shahid Afridi, in his column for the ICC’s website, asking Pakistani women to take inspiration from the men’s team that had won the Champions Trophy. “Hey women, look at the men for inspiration because you just can’t be inspired by anyone else”, she fumed. But wait. Didn’t Darren Sammy, after winning the World T20 in 2016, tell the media how the Under-19 team and the women’s team had inspired the West Indies men to win the World T20? The world has got to a point where there is sexism in deeming what sexism is. While it is completely okay for men to be told or asked certain things, when the same thing is said to women, then that becomes a cause for a fury. When Sania Mirza was asked about “settling down” and “having kids” by Rajdeep Sardesai, she took offence. A few weeks later Usain Bolt’s mother would tell the media that she hoped that her son would settle down and get married. Maybe, marriage and having kids are not as abnormal as feminists love to think?
Feminists have also mastered the art of cherry-picking comments and remarks that fit their narrative of sexism and misogyny while completely ignoring the comments that don’t fit in even if they constitute the majority. Thus, even though derisions, abuse and insults are generally seen in the comment threads of the posts by public figures, when they appear in the posts of popular female figures, they’re given more context, twists and attention.
Female cricketers being ‘sexualized’ and ‘objectified’ has also become a substratum for outrage while men infatuating over good looking female cricketers has earned the wrath of feminists. I should be naïve to think that the large amount of female fan following Virat Kohli has is more due to his batting than his good looks. Sangakkara has more female fans than Muralitharan, despite both having contributed equally to Sri Lanka cricket, for obvious reasons. Imran Khan used to have female fans throwing themselves at him not because of his all-round skills but because of his macho looks. “Eh! you will get a ‘black’ party. All your children will be pitch dark like him. I would feel like throwing them out of our boundary,” Sanath Jayasuriya’s ex-mother-in-law warned when her daughter informed her mother about her love interest. When Matthew Abeysinghe, a celebrated Sri Lankan swimmer took part in the Olympics, female twitter users swooned over his charming looks instead of admiring his performance. When Mahela Jayawardene visited Jaffna as a part of his walk across Sri Lanka to raise funds for a cancer hospital, a female fan jumped on him and kissed him without warning. Had the genders been reversed it would have definitely been considered a case of molestation. After all, it is obvious that it is not entirely men who are at fault here. Perhaps, this is how the relationship between men and women are supposed to work?
Chris Gayle’s ill-advised comments in 2016 towards McLaughlin was distorted by feminists to make it fit into their narrative of female victimhood as they pulled all the stops to correlate it with sexual harassment and even rape culture. If that’s borderline sexual harassment, then what about Maria Sharapova, when questioned by a male journalist during a press conference, overtly admitting that she was engrossed in “admiring his form”?
Kemar Roach was once asked by a female TV host about what he thought about Indian women and when Roach responded saying “they are very pretty, I must say, just like yourself”, she admitted to “fishing for a compliment”. England’s Danielle Wyatt tweeted “Kohli marry me!!!” during the WT20 in 2014 while Katherine Brunt, another female cricketer replied to her tweet saying that she had been asked by him a week before. Bollywood’s Ameesha Patel, in 2011, stated that she was dying to meet Malinga to give him a hug and a kiss. Mark Geyer, an Australian rugby player, was once asked by a female TV host about the size of his genitalia during a charity boxing match. And female TV anchors discussing the looks of male cricketers during the IPL is not even a rare occurrence. If such acts of ‘sexism’ against men can be taken lightly, as they should be, then why is it wrong when women are at the receiving end?
Despite calling for more fans and followers, criticisms against female cricketers by the followers of the sport don’t go down well with gender politicians. When a despondent Sanjay Manjrekar took to Twitter to express his disappointment at the way India’s women played in the World Cup final, he was accused of wanting India’s women to lose. Some blamed it on his male ego while others didn’t want him to tell women how to play cricket. It almost seems as if the fans, more of whom women’s cricket demands, are expected to silently watch cricket and say only the good things. Remember, if you are unhappy with Veda’s rash shot in the final, it is solely because of your male ego.
Then there is this latest fad- complaints about men’s cricket being called cricket whereas women’s cricket has to cope with their gender being prepended to the name of their sport as it is adduced as an example of sexism. Who should I complain to or what kind of victim card should I play since a google search on “World Cup” results in the knowledge graph automatically assuming that my query is about Football world cup? Is it because football is more popular than cricket or is it because of any underlying socio-political reasons? Shall I blame Eurocentrism?
Fan interest cannot be demanded
During the women’s world cup, one writer opined that “Indian cricket fans don’t love cricket, they love sexism” when the Indian women’s team’s win against Pakistan went unnoticed. Such remarks reek of the feminist neo-Marxist view of gender relationships as the purveyors of such ludicrous theories fail to understand how fan following works in sports.
Sports are merely an entertainment and fans don’t have any moral obligation to support certain players or sports by virtue of them representing their country. Moreover, fans are not unemployed deadbeats whose sole motive of survival is to watch and cheer every sport in the world. Often other sports and sports stars accuse cricket fans of showing no interests in other sports as if there exists a conspiracy by cricket fans to shun the progress of other sports. After winning the Asian Team Snooker Championship, Pankaj Advani tweeted saying “We r not demigods, we r not cricketers.. We r the Asian Team Snooker Champions 2017. What a feeling!”. This is quintessential of the sentiment that is exhibited by players and fans of other sports in India, and women’ cricket seems to have boarded that bandwagon with the added shellac of neo-Marxism.
Fans need to be won. Attention needs to be sought. Support needs to be elicited. In contrast, what many do is to demand support from the fans. Calling fans sexist for not following women’s cricket will do little good to women’s cricket and if women’s cricket is to capture the imagination of the fans, then they must market their games better. A sport is a product and it needs to be sold in the market. Demanding that people buy something is not how a market economy works.
Another reason cited as the reason for the lack of crowd support for women’s cricket is the absence of TV coverage. As it is the case with fan following, enthusiasts of women’s cricket often demand that their matches be broadcast while making no effort to generate fan interest. It should be understood that media are not non-profit organisations, and they are businesses that try to produce profits. Thus, if women’s cricket is not going to garner enough Television Rating Points, the broadcasters would lose out on the revenue that comes through sponsorships. On the other hand, if a sport is going to get adequate viewers, there is no reason why a broadcaster would want to miss out on an opportunity to make money. Of course, it could be argued that broadcasting matches could increase fan interest, but given that the broadcasters take a significant amount of risk before purchasing the broadcasting rights of an event, they would definitely analyse the prospect of making profits. So, broadcasters not wanting to broadcast women’s cricket shows that they don’t believe that they could make much profit out of it. Lack of broadcaster interest in women’s cricket elucidates the reality that there is not many who are going watch it, and not the underlying patriarchal values as some people claim.
A pertinent analogy that could be drawn is how different plans are suggested to increase the popularity of Test cricket. Unlike women’s cricket, Test cricket doesn’t blame the broadcasters or the fans. Instead, people concerned with the administration of cricket are keener on exploring the possibilities of making Test cricket more contextually relevant. Women’s cricket should take note.
Cricket is a male establishment and men need not be apologetic about it
It should be acknowledged that cricket is a male establishment and there is no need why men should feel apologetic about it. If not for the hard work of men, cricket would not have the same popularity it has now. Such popularity wasn’t achieved overnight. It was the combined effort of generations of male cricketers who sacrificed their family time, worked part-time while training hard, risked being ostracized by the society by embracing commercial ventures, and won world tournaments against all odds to propagate interest for cricket in their country.
Feminists who blame the male establishment for impeding women’s cricket must remember that the male establishment has only made their task easier. Cricket is a game that was sired by men for men to men. It’s men’s cricket that laid down the administrative structure for cricket; it’s men’s cricket that made cricket popular in their respective countries; it’s men’s cricket that built all those great stadiums and established the training facilities that women avail themselves of now; it’s men’s cricket that turned cricket into a cash cow. If not for men’s cricket, women’s cricket may not even have the support it has right now. In short, women’s cricket is riding men’s cricket’s coattail.
To play the devil’s advocate, assuming that the male establishment is indeed hindering women’s cricket’s progress, then shouldn’t women’s cricket be popular in countries where men’s cricket isn’t well established? Why is women’s cricket comparatively popular only in countries where men’s cricket is well rooted? And if patriarchal structures are the reason why women’s sports don’t accrue a huge fan base, then shouldn’t netball, which is primarily a women’s sport, be as popular as, say, men’s basketball?
In an ideal world, one would expect these strong and independent women to build their own establishment. Women did have their own establishment before 2005. It was the International Women’s Cricket Council that controlled and administrated women’s cricket from 1958 to 2005. It had everything that modern feminists demand. It was women who functioned in decision-making capacities; it was women who ran the body, and it was women who lead the body. Ergo, a body that was completely immune to the arrogation of patriarchy, by feminists’ argument itself, should have taken women’s cricket to greater heights. But the reality was far removed from such a utopia. Until 2005, the women’s body struggled to even host World Cups for women every four years. At times, gaps of up to six years were observed between world cups as they struggled to find funding for their events. But ever since ICC took over women’s cricket, World Cups have been held regularly during their stipulated time period. Since 2005, women’s cricket has become more professionalized, female players get better pays, and the fan base has grown considerably. Thus, it can be clearly seen that the male establishment, which is deplored by feminists, has only helped the progress of women’s cricket.
The female hypoagency
Dr Warren Farrell in his book “The Myth of Male Power” argues that “Men’s greatest weakness is their facade of strength, and women’s greatest strength is their facade of weakness.” Critics of feminism such as Karen Straughan accuse feminism of perpetuating what they term as the female hypoagency. Female hypoagency is the tendency of the society to imply that women lack any agency. Thus, they are not held accountable for their own actions nor are they expected to be responsible for their progress. The corollary of female hypoagency is male hyperagency, where men are held both accountable and responsible for everything including women’s failures.
This could be clearly observed in cricket. The male establishment is expected to promote women’s cricket, pay women an equal salary even though they don’t generate an equal revenue, provide facilities to female cricketers and most importantly ensure that female cricketers travel business class just like their male counterparts. Hence, it is men and their establishment that is blamed for fans not turning up to watch women play; it’s patriarchy that bears the brunt of the failure of women’s cricket to garner media interest, and it’s the male ego that comes in the firing line for women’s achievements not being celebrated. When women lose, it’s because of men and when they win then that is despite men.
While you find feminists complain about the lack of equal pay, female cricketers being made to travel economy class while men travel business class, and enough being not done by the male establishment to promote women’s cricket, why no one speaks about generating an equal revenue is fascinating. Surely, if equality means equal result, then it should also mean equal responsibility, shouldn’t it?
Thus, women’s cricket demanding that they be treated in the same way as their beneficiaries stinks of this female hypoagency. It seems as if women’s cricket only wants to increase the share of the economic pie without wanting to increase the size of the pie. Feminists demand a place for women in what is and has been a men’s club clearly forgetting the fact that excludability is a key tenet of private property rights, and that women are free to have a club of their own.
A female journalist writing for ESPNcricinfo warned cheerleaders saying “Ladies, please subject yourselves to the male gaze, but don’t even think of violating our spaces with your presence unless we want you to”. This is the kind of entitlement some feminists have which is also an example of the female hypoagency. Why would they want to walk into a world built by men and demand things be like the way they want to?
Besides, it is male fans who are criticized for not following women’s cricket and hardly any attempts have been made to rope in more female fans. Surely, if only a few are going to turn up to watch a women’s match, one gender cannot be singled out, can it?
Men’s cricket doesn’t owe women’s cricket anything and thus men are not obliged to serve women. The market is open and free. If women can make millions of people watch the sport, then they are going make a hell of a lot of money. Patriarchy or any bogeyman can never come on their way. But the fact that the feminist hate machine keeps spinning articles after articles inflicting a culture of victimhood on women’s cricket and not many articles are written on what women’s cricket can do to attract more fans lays bare the fact that their interest is strictly only on vilifying men.
While there are feminists who grouch about the male establishment not doing enough to raise women’s cricket to its level, there are others who whinge about the lack of women in men’s cricket. They complain about there not being enough female broadcasters and cricket journalists and when there are a few, they grouse about how they’re treated. Even though skilled women, or anyone for that matter, should be free to be a part of men’s cricket, it should be reminded that there is no any need to have equal representation of women within men’s cricket. Women are and should be free to have a club of their own.
It’s either because of men or despite men
As much as they blame men for women’s sports’ slow progress, feminists also don’t miss an opportunity to revile men when women win.
When P.V. Sindhu and Sakshi Malik won Olympic medals for India in 2016, feminists didn’t fail to cast aspersion on men. Anajana Om Kashyap, an Indian journalist, tweeted “Women r weak? Need Raksha? Man wl protect? Country needs to come out of this myth. If only men mind their own business!”. Her tweet was quite an irony since earlier that year seven Indians had sacrificed their lives to defend the Pathankot Air Force Station, and all of them has been men. And when the Indian women’s team entered the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup, the Times of India quoted Delhi University’s female cricketers saying “Ladkon ne toh kuch kiya nahin, ab ladkiyon se hi ummeed hai (Men did nothing, now girls are our hope)”. Soon after it was revealed that Serena Williams won the Australian Open while being pregnant, a widely retweeted tweet read “Until a Man can win a championship while pregnant…Serena Williams will be hands down the greatest athlete of all time.” Men are blamed when women fail and men are shamed when women succeed. As far as men are concerned, there is no respite.
An out of the topic, yet very relevant analogy that can be made is the way feminists responded to the failure of Ghostbusters, and the success of Wonder Woman. When the feminist reboot of the Ghostbusters tanked up spectacularly, feminists were quick to blame misogyny and sexism. “‘Ghostbusters,’ the bros who hate it and the art of modern misogyny”, an article read in the Washington Post. However, as Wonder Woman broke many records, feminists rushed to portray it as a win against patriarchy. “Wonder Woman Crushes The Patriarchy—And Box Office Records”, declared a website. It is not as if products of a very good quality sell well and products of a poor quality don’t sell well, is it? If a bad product coming from women doesn’t sell well, then it is only because of sexism. That’s one way of self-pitying in the modern world, it should be told.
Women’s cricket should evolve on its own
In contrast to other sports like tennis, soccer and badminton, where there is continuous action, cricket, it should be told, has minimal action taking place on the field. The action in cricket is discrete and lasts only the length of each ball. Thus, unlike in other sports, in cricket, the intensity of such discrete actions gets even more emphasized. Hence, the difference in quality between men’s cricket and women’s cricket easily becomes evident. So, it is easy to take note of slower bowling speeds and shorter sixes in women’s cricket. Despite gender politicians claiming that women’s cricket is as compelling as men’s while some claiming it to be even more compelling than the men’s version, the numbers paint a different picture.
It defies logic that anyone would want to watch a palliated version of a sport when the superlative version of the sport is played throughout the year. Even though women’s cricket live in denial about the lack of quality and contextual relevance, asserting that their game is impeccable every time questions are raised, almost to mean that they are not be blamed while wanting more support and money, anyone who is brave enough to defy political correctness will depose of the huge gulf between men’s and women’s cricket.
Women’s cricket needs to understand cricket evolved as a man’s sport and thus, the rules of the game were written with men’s ability in mind. Why women should play according to the standards set for men is moot. In the face of some feminists agreeing to the biological fact that women are physically not as strong as men, others insist that there exists no difference. The first kind wants women’s cricket to be consumed on its own right while the latter believes patriarchal notions such as men being physically stronger than women would hinder the chances of women playing in men’s team. However, both these kinds cooperate in pinning the blame on patriarchal values.
The egotistic nature of some female cricketers doesn’t help either. When Waqar Younis suggested that 50 overs are too long for women’s cricket, Australia’s Jess Jonassen called it offensive while Sri Lanka’s Siripali Weerakody bragged that Chamari Athapaththu would hit the former Pakistani fast bowler for sixes any day of the week. While women’s use shorter boundaries and smaller balls and women’s Tests are played only over four days, the egotistic response to such suggestions to tinker with the rules of women’s cricket is ironic. It is time women’s cricket realizes that playing by the rules enacted for men paves the way for direct comparisons between men’s and women’s cricket and the only way forward for them is to evolve on their own right, which means amending women’s cricket to make it more sellable to the fans. To admit women are different to men is not to mean women are inferior to men.
The purpose of writing this article is not to mean that men’s cricket should not invest in women’s cricket. Even though women’s cricket would greatly benefit if it seriously considers evolving on its own rights, and creating its own market, it is incumbent on men’s cricket to financially aid women’s cricket until it becomes financially strong enough to stand on its own. After all, cricket has only to gain by promoting women’s cricket.
However, the point this article tries to get across is that men in cricket should not be victimized by gender politics. Feminists cannot demand that men succour women’s cricket while exploiting every given opportunity to vituperate men. You cannot milk men’s cricket from one end while decapitating it from the other end. Ideally, one would expect women’s cricket to be grateful to men’s cricket for all the good things it has done to them, but in a misandristic world, that is a far-fetched dream. Nonetheless, it is not unfair to expect men’s cricket to be at least free from any malignant accusations.
Women’s cricket needs to emancipate itself from the culture of victimhood feminism has foisted upon them. Even though men’s cricket should help promote women’s cricket, women’s cricket demanding that men’s cricket help their progress is nothing but a pure sense of entitlement. Therefore, instead of circumscribing themselves to blaming the patriarchy, women’s cricket should work on marketing their sport better to the fans world over. After all, in a free market, it’s always marketability that decides success.