No more cash woes for top women cricketers

The Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) decision to award central contracts has boosted women’s cricket. Ask Rajeshwari Gayakwad, who not long ago struggled to make ends meet after her father passed away in Karnataka

India women’s cricket team’s premier left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad can now concentrate on her game fully without worrying about managing the expenses of her five-member family after her father expired a couple of years ago through a heart attack. 

Gayakwad can’t thank the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) enough for finally introducing a contract system for women’s cricket last month, and of course her employers Western Railway whom she has been serving for a year.
Gayakwad (24), the first woman cricketer from Bijapur (Karnataka), is placed in Group ‘B’ of the central contracts which fetches her R10 lakh per year. She has played one Test, 12 ODIs and six T20 Internationals, claiming a total of 32 wickets. Group ‘A’ cricketers like Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami and the rest earn R15 lakh a year from the BCCI.

Any comparison in terms of financial gains between men and women cricketers is a no contest. Even when it comes to daily allowance, the men get R 1000 while a women’s cricketer is paid R500 for domestic matches. The international match fees and daily allowance of women’s cricketers are far less as well.

However, with the BCCI taking a major step to boost Indian women’s cricketers like Gayakwad, who struggled to make ends meet, can now lead a comfortable life.

“The BCCI’s central contracts is a huge boost for me. With a lot of financial problems back home after my father passed away, it was difficult for me to handle things. I did not know what would happen. I got a job in Western Railway thanks to Diana Edulji (former India skipper). Then, the BCCI introduced central contracts for which I was chosen. Now, my 100 per cent focus is only on cricket,” Gayakwad told mid-day.

Gayakwad started playing cricket only at 18 when a cricket club for women cricketers opened in Bijapur. Her father enrolled her and his younger daughter in the club as they were good at other sports at school level.

Gayakwad’s father was a primary school teacher and often struggled to purchase cricket equipment. “My father had a tough time, but he never made his hardships known to us. We only realised his plight when he passed away. At times, he would borrow money from his friends to buy us a bat and other equipment. Sometimes I would borrow the equipments from my coach and give our daily allowance to him (as the rent). Most of our matches would happen in Bangalore which is 12 hours from where I stay (Bijapur),” said Gayakwad, who also has to look after her two younger brothers and mother.

Though Eduljee is happy with BCCI’s central contracts initiative, she feels more needs to be done. “It is a great first step. However, there is still a lot that the BCCI can do to make women’s cricket a thorough profession,” Edulji said.

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