Women commentators and anchors are often left hanging in the corners or hardly given any screen time during matches. Cricket might be a brilliantly fluid and exciting sport but the conversation surrounding the gap in television coverage and how it represents women presenters raise questions. The inequality drama builds unjustifiable workplace, having them portrayed as mere sex icons, away from the commentary box. And it reached a level of sexism when their talent got compared to questionable beauty standards.

In a new phenomenon, World Cup 2019, gets to have women narrators driving cricket coverage from England, straight from the ‘equally divided’ commentary box. Names including Mayanti Langer, Isa Guha, Seema Jaswal and Sanjana Ganesan to Priyadarshini Chatterjee, Bhavana Balakrishnan and Vindhya Medapati will be seen officially broadcasting the tournament. The controversial commentary box now gives the women equal control of the proceedings on the field, the pre-match and post-match shows.

In a new phenomenon, World Cup 2019 gets to have women narrators driving cricket coverage from England, straight from the ‘equally divided’ commentary box.

Dean Jones, former Australia batsman-turned-commentator, says it’s a bold move. “It’s good to see a lot of sportswomen anchors coming through from Star Sports,” says Jones to Forbes India. “You ask any of the boys that the very popular Mayanti is the best woman anchor in the business,” he claimed.

What’s more notable though is the behaviour towards women commentators is changing but sadly in slow motion. According to a study, the chances of finding a woman in sports journalism are low. A study done by the Associated Press Sports Editors in 2014 show that only 13.3 percent of the entire staff at 100 United States and Canadian newspapers and websites is women. Last year, this changed with the announcement that the Washington Post would become the first newspaper to have women covering every major professional sports beat. Still, much needs to be still done.

The broadcasters make World Cup 2019 team different from the all-male panel. Known for her strong voice, Former Indian Cricketer Snehal Pradhan, who is currently working as a Journalist and Broadcaster, told SheThePeople.TV, “Isa Guha, Seema Jaswal, they have proven that women can make a mark as female commentators. They show us that this field is gender neutral and whoever describes it as man’s job is highly incapable of understanding work ethics. There’s no need to point finger at any gender to do commentary and that’s why this year the best in the industry were picked irrespective of gender. Names like Allison Michel and Mayanti Langer are given different roles. Neither of them played but they are big followers of the sport and know their games. The knowledge they have here will give this tournament a much-needed inclusive perspective. They are the examples of the fact that women commentators are as brilliant at their jobs as any man.”

“Now it’s wonderful to see so many women getting opportunities. It’s great that young girls growing up now can see cricket media as a viable career option.”

Isa Guha, who is an Indian origin England cricketer, is bringing rich broadcasting experience to the fore. After retirement Guha moved on to doing broadcasting. Today, she is excited by the prospects for women. “When I first started working in broadcast, there were hardly any women presenting cricket,” she recalled. “Now it’s wonderful to see so many women getting opportunities. It’s great that young girls growing up now can see cricket media as a viable career option.” Guha also appeared a number of times on Extraa Innings of IPL and also worked for ITV’s coverage of IPL.

Last month, during India’s first ever women’s T20 league tournament finals, Guha was forced to tolerate Rameez Raja’s flirtatious review  of her “fashion game.” Guha tried to play it down with a smile on her face. The other women anchors who worked on the show might have similar accounts to share.

Disha Chopra, Travel Blogger and former Sports journalist, told SheThePeople.TV, “Cricket is in the Indian DNA, it really doesn’t matter if the chromosome is X or Y. I remember seeing every World Cup with my family at home so for most Indian women, it’s what we’re born watching. And now you see that being reflected on TV too. And why not! Wouldn’t you rather watch an intelligent woman who’s fun to watch and adds that oomph factor rather than a super technical and mostly statistical approach to the game by yet another boring male anchor? Add to that the fact that women are breaking stereotypes in every field…why should cricket be any different.”

Cricket is in the Indian DNA, it really doesn’t matter if the chromosome is X or Y: Disha Chopra

Seema Jaswal, a TV and radio presenter from London is making her World Cup debut this year. Likewise, Tamil TV anchor Bhavana Balakrishnan is also gearing for her maiden experience as anchor of a World Cup show. The sports presenter Balakrishnan says, “The only woman I had seen presenting cricket was Mayanti Langer. Kudos to these sports presenters, especially women, who have cemented their place in a man’s world.” The presenter added that inclusivity should be part of a sports agenda too.

Evidently it’s time women commentators garnered an equal amount of appreciation from the fans as well!

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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