After Smriti Mandhana, vice-captain of the Indian women’s cricket team, made it clear that she did not want to be labelled as a woman cricketer, but wished to be recognised simply as a cricketer, a few other players have come in support of her.
Gargi Banerji, who made her international debut at the age of 15 and also served as a manager and selector, believes that such labelling is a thing of the past and something created by the so-called pundits. “This is 2019. And sports should not have any gender bias,” she says. “When it comes to politics, nobody calls a leader ‘woman politician Ms so & so. Similarly, a cricketer should be called a cricketer.”
“When tournament comes, it is known as a women’s cricket tournament. India has produced lots of talented cricketers like Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur, Jhulan Goswami and Smriti Mandhana. People know them by their names and so, there is no need to specify ‘woman cricketer’ before their names,” she adds.
Former India captain Shanta Rangaswami, who was a member of the panel that selected the woman’s team coach (W.V. Raman), says, “In sports, gender has no place. But it is to be remembered that women cricketers still play amongst themselves. Though they are introducing mixed cricket now on a trial basis, there are miles to go before it can be introduced at competitive level like Mixed Doubles in tennis. Not wanting to sound despondent or diffident, I want to see women playing high quality cricket with men in the not-too-distant future.”
Lisa Sthalekar, an India-born cricketer who played for Australia, who is in India as a commentator, strongly believes that language plays a huge role in quality. “Why must we distinguish between a man and a woman especially when it comes to sport? As a commentator that is something that I am aware of and try to ensure that I use terms that are gender neutral. For instance, I say batter, third instead of third man and player of the match. If there is a word that still describes what you are trying to say and is gender neutral, why wouldn’t you say it to ensure that all listeners and readers feel included. I agree with Mandhana about being referred to as just a cricketer. Plus, if you want to go down the track in calling the team women-something, then you should add ‘men’s’ too.”
Former India cricketer Pravin Amre agrees. “Cricket is a game of professionals and they should not be distinguished as male cricketers and female cricketers. One who flies aircraft is a pilot. If it is a lady, we don’t say ‘a lady pilot’. The case should be the same in sports,” says Amre, who has played 11 Tests and 37 ODIs. He is a reputed coach now. Former India women’s team coach Purnima Rau, however, does not agree with the suggestion. “I am proud to be a woman cricketer. It is not a derogatory remark. It is a tool for identification and is a natural word, and I respect it. There is no need to change it,” she says.