Women in blue have excelled on the field, but why are their wallets not swelling with all the success?

Indian Women cricketers How much are they paid compared to men

“What’s the score?” is perhaps the most common conversation starter in India, thanks to the near-religious zeal for the game of cricket. Seeing cricketers bring many laurels for the country is overwhelming for cricket fans. While the majority of the accolades are earned by men, women in blue have also had remarkable success with bat and ball. 

Long considered a sideshow to men’s cricket in India, the telecast of the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup and 2020 T20 World Cup ushered in a noticeable change among Indian fans regarding women cricket players.

The question is: how well are our women cricketers compensated for representing the nation in global events? Let’s try to find out where Indian women cricket stands in comparison to the global arena and the men’s game. But first, let's take a quick tour of the feminine side of the game that was brought to India by the British in the early 1700s. 

Women’s cricket in India

The first Women’s Test was played between England and Australia. The Women’s Cricket Association was founded in 1926, while the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) was formed in 1973. It ran the women’s game in India till 2006, when it merged with BCCI after an ICC ruling. The Indian Women’s team played their first Test match in 1976, against the West Indies. In 1978, India recorded its first-ever Test win against the same nation.

Top women cricketers in India 

Recently, Indian women’s cricket team reached the finals of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup for the first time. Though it didn't win, the team’s performance was noteworthy. As Indian women cricketers gain recognition, it is bringing them more income. However, while comparing their income with their male counterparts, the gender pay disparity is apparent. 

Nevertheless, here is a list of the highest-paid women cricketers of India as per their BCCI contracts:

  • Harmanpreet Kaur (Rs 50 lakh p.a.) Grade A contract
  • Smriti Mandhana (Rs 50 lakh p.a.) Grade A contract
  • Poonam Yadav (Rs 50 lakh p.a.) Grade A contract
  • Mithali Raj (Rs 30 lakh p.a.) Grade B contract
  • Jhulan Goswami (Rs 30 lakh p.a.) Grade B contract

Related: No obstacle big enough for these 5 Indian female athletes

Gender and global comparisons

As mentioned above, a female Grade A BCCI contract is worth Rs 50 lakh. A male Grade A cricketer, on the other hand, earns Rs 5 crore to Rs 7 crore annually. While Mithali Raj’s Grade B contract brings in Rs 30 lakhs for her, male Grade B cricketers earn Rs 3 crore annually. Even a male Grade C cricketer can earn around Rs 1 crore a year. 

The gender wage gap is quite prominent, to the extent that it may seem like discrimination against women. Understandably, sports revenue is closely linked to ticketing and viewership revenue, and the sponsorship commitments that follow. 

Even if we set aside the gender wage gaps in Indian cricket on the grounds of popularity, surely global women’s cricket could be a fairer comparison. After the roaring triumph of Australia over India in the T20 World Cup final last year, the Australian women’s cricket team became the highest paid in the world. 

Cricket Australia claims an increase in women’s payments from $7.5 million to $55.2 million, and that the base contract remuneration is the same for men and women. Aussie stars like Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry earn Rs 95 lakh from Cricket Australia, which is almost twice that of the top Indian payment. 

Efforts for gender equality are being championed globally, and campaigns to bridge the wage gaps can be seen in many occupations that are open to public scrutiny. Take the opinions voiced by leading Hollywood ladies, for instance. However, the reality is that women cricketers in India earn a tenth of what their male counterparts do.

The absence of a vocal players’ association is also cited by many as the reason for the lack of bargaining power and pay disparities.

Related: 5 Indian sportswomen reshaping the sporting world

Road to equality?

As per the latest reports, BCCI’s earnings stand at Rs 3730 crore, nearly Rs 900 crore more than Cricket Australia. What BCCI can aim at first is to bridge the pay disparity within the game. Making women cricketers’ pay equal to that of men may seem too ambitious, but the gap can be narrowed at least.

Given its enormous resources, BCCI can adopt a more aggressive attitude towards upgrades in women’s cricket. Improving training facilities and competitions at the lower tiers of the domestic game can help, as can investing in age-based competitions to put an assembly line of quality players in place. 

With world-class competition among Indian national team prospects, quality and achievement will follow. In terms of the result, it could mean a transition from a finals appearance to an invincible streak of title wins. During that transition, we can hope that more fans will line up for tickets to cheer on the women in blue.