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Female umpires of a male-dominated game


Bipin Dani

It was a pleasant surprising news to both Indian umpires Janani Narayanan and Vrinda Rathi, who on Tuesday were inducted into the International Panel of ICC Development Umpires.

Female umpires of a male-dominated game

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Interestingly, Janani’s first loved sport is tennis and not cricket. She has Swiss professional tennis player Stan Wawrinka’s photo on her WhatsApp DP.

Speaking exclusveily over telephone from Chennai, she says, “He was a regular at Chennai Open. I watched him play live here and quickly fell in love with his. He has the best single hand backhand currently”.

“Tennis is my first love. Steffi Graf and Roger Federer are my favourites”.

Janani has not played cricket.

“I was not into playing cricket, the only option was to take up umpiring. My parents, though they were initially reluctant, they did not stop me in trying it out”, she added further.

Another new woman Vrinda Rathi in the panel has played cricket and was also a scorer.

“Having played cricket and also officiated as a scorer, this was a natural progression for me and I am more than happy at the way the things have moved”, she said.

“I am honoured to be named in ICC’s development panel as this opens new chapter for me. I am sure I will get to learn a lot from other members of the panel and look forward to future assignments”.

Both have umpired jointly at domestic level.

“Toughen up both physically more importantly mentally to endure the rigours of umpiring. Develop an attitude of detached attachment towards the proceedings and never be carried away under any circumstance”, former BCCI umpire R. Radhakrishnan, whom Janani considers her mentor, has suggested a small piece of advice to both  from Chennai.

Both new female umpires will separately get a chance to officiate with male umpires.

“To begin with its ideal to start with one male and other a female umpire as the male counterpart would have had a better exposure to the job. We must bear in mind that the game has been a male dominated one for nearly three centuries. The female participation in the  has gained popularity only in the past ten to fifteen years”, Radhakrishnan said.

“To expose two female umpires in a game is likely to undermine their level of confidence and it as the most powerful axiom in umpiring followed by all  the other requisites”, he further added.

“It is smooth if two Women umpires officiate women’s game and vice versa”, feels former umpire Vinayak Kulkurni.

“When you have a mix of umpires, players may tend to approach the umpire of the same gender. Our experience is that when the players want to gain certain advantages by pressure tactics they tend to approach the women umpires still.  But it is great to see that both work as equal partners of the team”, Kulkurni, who officiated in two ODIa, said.

“All these years the game of cricket is a men dominated game. Universally women are taking up jobs hither to dominated by men, so the acceptance level is not at the desired level still.  It is not that difficult for women Umpires compared to Men”.

“Since Cricket is still a gentleman’s game both get the same respect.  It all depends on which match you are officiating. men’s or Women’s?  They have their own ups and downs or mixed challenges. It all depends on the acceptability and reputation of the umpire rather than Gender. In fact women face more challenges off the field rather than on field at most non regular grounds as the infrastructure available is not at the expected level’, he signed off.

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