Some days ago, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) handed out central contracts to leading Indian cricketers. The news was prominent in the media mainly due to Mahendra Singh Dhoni not being featured in it. But it also gave us, the fans, an opportunity to look at the salaries our favourite cricketers earn, apart from their other source of revenue which is endorsements.
But while we look at the amounts of money drawn by cricketers such as Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, it would also be very useful to ask how much money is made by their female counterparts in the Indian women's team and how it compares to their salary.
As has been revealed, Indian male cricketers in Grade A+ - the highest level among centrally contracted cricketers – earn an annual salary of Rs. 7 crores. Those in Grade A get Rs 5 crores, those in Grade B Rs 3 crores and lastly, one placed in Grade C have an annual income of Rs 1 crores. Sounds impressive!
Now, let's look at the earnings of similarly placed Indian women's cricketers. The top-level cricketers of the fairer sex in India are divided into three instead of four categories – Grade A, B, C. The members of the first group are Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, and Poonam Yadav.
These three ladies earn – hold your breath – Rs 50 lakhs! Yes, Rs 50 lakhs – 1/14th of the amount given to a Virat Kohli for his services in a year. Grade B and Grade C cricketers get Rs 30 lakhs and Rs 10 lakhs respectively. So, the lowest graded Indian male cricketer is making 100% more money than the highest grades female cricketer.
Is this fair? Doesn't seem like it by a long shot! Should it remain this way? Most people will say no. But the issue of gender disparity in pay has been discussed with passionate vigour for a very long time. It has been the case, even more so, in sports, especially tennis.
But this issue is a little bit more complicated than what might one conceive at first sight While equal pay for men and women is an unexceptional idea, when it comes to sports, one has to remember that women cricketers do not play as much cricket as their male counterparts do. Of course, the gap is narrowing but is still there.
On top of that, most of the revenue in the game comes from male version of the sport. Women's cricket generates a tiny fraction of the money that male cricket does. Just think about the amount of money that any broadcaster would pay to telecast a series between the Indian and Australian men's team. And, what about a similar series involving women's teams of those countries?
Well, unlike in the past, the series may get telecasted but the revenue would be minimal. So, is it really that big a crime to not pay women the same salary as men? After all, a disproportionally large percentage of BCCI and other cricket authorities' money comes from male cricket. It is therefore, an interesting moral conundrum and one that poses a very difficult question to answer.
Should women cricketers be given a larger share of money that is, to put it bluntly, being earned by their male counterparts. If you ask why isn't more money being generated by women's cricket, it's because very few people watch it. It is not the fault of BCCI or ICC. Just think about it.