Batting for the women
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Of course, when women have wrested what may be termed equality of status in their sport, the reception has often been grudging. A ridiculous iteration of women tennis players' underserved right to equal attention was finally put to rest by the "battle of the sexes" match in 1973 when Billy Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in straight sets, asserting more than anything else the ridiculousness of the taunt. The point distilled from the episode, as too from the great performances of male and female athletes over the decades, is that it is by appreciating the women's competition on its own ambitious terms that sport as a whole is enriched.
Indeed, taking that a step further, it is time we held cricket to the contention that a sport clears the benchmark of progressiveness, or modernisation, by the measure of gender equality it adopts in terms of the opportunities it offers. Certainly, the past six to seven years have seen progress, with the ICC mandated merger of women's and men's associations giving women access to the facilities (training, stadiums, accommodation) and back-up (umpires, broadcast of ICC tournaments) male cricketers enjoy. It's a big step. You only needed to have visited the Indian women at a training camp on the eve of the merger of Women's Cricket Association of India with the BCCI to see how dependent they were on the largeheartedness of public organisations to get themselves match-fit.
However, you also just have to consider the claim this month by the Mumbai Cricket Association to Wankhede stadium for a men's Ranji match, thereby depriving the women's world cup of the venue. The women's tournament was to be in stadiums across Mumbai alone (till the Shiv Sena threat compelled the organisers to reschedule Pakistan's matches to Cuttack), and the MCA's bid to deny the women a venue associated with the men's 2011 world cup triumph shows the reluctance to even acknowledge, howsoever symbolically, the need to raise the profile of the women's game.
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