Bangalore: Pramila Sarangan (nee Bhat) was a very talented India off spinner, who faded away without much ado due to the lack of cricket in the women"s game. A committed cricketer, who honed her skills with the boys, and led India for a brief spell from 1995 to 1998, Pramila is now settled in Abu Dhabi with her husband and young son Siddanth.
Pramila – Pammi to her friends and family – was in Bangalore on a short visit and spoke informally to Thatscricket.com on matters relating to women"s cricket.
"The game must be improved from the grass roots. There should be more tournaments and exposure for the players. Former cricketers should be involved in the development of the game by the Women"s Cricket Association of India. The initiative to involve former cricketers must come from the association," Pammi said in this exclusive interview.
Excerpts of the interview:
How would you rate the standard of Indian cricket?
I haven"t been greatly in touch with the Indian scenario as I have been away in Abu Dhabi. But, from what I hear and the impressions that I get during my sojourns to India is that nothing much has changed. I don"t think there is a marked improvement in the standards of women"s cricket in India. I would rather say it has become worse.
I"m given to understand today that not many of the youngsters are fit. They don"t seem to be doing the kind of hard work that we used to do. Today even a single flashy performance is enough to get a player into the Indian team. During our time, we really had to work hard and sweat it out.
What about the world standard and do you favour the merger of women"s cricket with the men"s association?
Australia has always been my favourite team. It has always been a good team and now New Zealand has really come up. New Zealand may have emerged stronger because of merger of women"s cricket with the men"s association. They must have gained like Australia from the facilities that men cricketers normally enjoy.
However, the merger doesn"t seem to have worked in the case of England. The England women"s team has really deteriorated over the years. I"m for merger as it would provide the women good infrastructure like good stadiums and grounds.
Do you think men"s cricket gets too much attention in India?
I have no complaints against men"s cricket, but I think there is definitely a bias towards men"s cricket as compared to any other sport leave alone women"s cricket. The men cricketers take the major chunk of limelight and money in Indian sports.
The men cricketers, if you ask me, eat the cake and have it too. The media coverage must be fair and sports like hockey should also get an equal importance. Indian cricket is in the limelight irrespective of the team"s performance.
How can women"s cricket be bettered in India?
Women"s cricket should be made more attractive in terms of the game. The matches should be balanced and not just lopsided affairs. It"s true women cricketers cannot match men cricketers in terms hitting big sixes due to the physiological differences.
But, efforts should be made to say reduce the boundary to 65 yards so that runs are scored, sixes are hit and generally audiences are attracted to the game. This is where the players have a role in improving their techniques and generating a cricketing curiosity among the spectators.
What about the role of the women"s cricket administration in developing the game?
The administrators of the game must come up with proper incentives for women cricketers. Women cricketers hardly get any benefit and security from the game. Smitha Harikrisha is a case in point. A very talented cricketer, she has now diverted her attention to her MBA degree as she needs to have a profession.
Though she was on a contract with Air India, she did not have a regular job despite serving the cause of the game for so many years. The women cricketers should have avenues for permanent jobs so that they can concentrate on their games.
Secondly, the domestic game needs to be revamped. The association must have a structured calendar of events. After the 1995 series against England, we straightaway played the World Cup during 1997 without a single international game.
This is absolutely disheartening. The players cannot be exposed to the World Cup without any international experience or practice. It will be impossible for the players to perform without regular match practice, training and exposure.
It is like constructing a building without a proper foundation. The building will obviously collapse. The game needs to be improved from the grass roots level. There should be a system of grooming cricketers from the school, club and state levels. They should be then integrated into the national and international streams. Unless this proper process is followed, the game just cannot improve in India.
Can former internationals contribute towards improving the standards of the game in India?
Yes, former international cricketers like me would definitely like to be involved in developing the game in the country. But, we must be felt needed by the association. It cannot be just that I express a desire and am then left in a blind alley. That won"t work.
All good cricketers need not be good coaches or administrators. But, I think a right balance can be struck in this regard. The association has to get former players involved. The initiative should definitely come from the association.
Should women cricketers practice with boys or men during training?
It definitely helps young girls and women cricketers to play with boys and men. In fact, I gained immensely as an off spinner because of my stint with Swastic. I could really see the difference when I bowled to women cricketers after practicing with the boys. The approach to the game improves and women can become positive by practicing with the boys.
Is there any women"s cricket in Abu Dhabi?
Not much, we are making an effort to get women"s cricket started in Abu Dhabi. Hopefully, we expect to conduct some exhibition matches involving maybe Australian and England teams.
Your thoughts on match-fixing…
It is very depressing to know that a cricketer like Hansie Cronje could be involved in match-fixing. He used to my idol – I still like him as a cricketer. Sometimes when I think of the (match-fixing) episode, I feel very depressed.