Bouquets and garlands for men, but cold shoulder to womenThe national women’s cricket team returned home from Thailand on Thursday after participating in the ICC Women’s World Cup Asia Region Qualifier. In stark contrast to the celebratory response the men’s team received on its return, not a single sports official was present at the Tribhuvan International Airport to welcome the women’s team.
The national women’s cricket team returned home from Thailand on Thursday after participating in the ICC Women’s World Cup Asia Region Qualifier. In stark contrast to the celebratory response the men’s team received on its return, not a single sports official was present at the Tribhuvan International Airport to welcome the women’s team.
The women’s cricket team finished second in the qualifier. The tournament played in the single round-robin format sent only the table toppers into the Global Qualifiers for the 2020 ICC Twenty20 World Cup and 2021 ICC 50-over World Cup. Nepal’s only defeat to Thailand-shattered its qualification hopes as the hosts made it through, finishing their entire campaign unbeaten.
Despite its stellar showing, the response from both officials and fans to the women’s team has bordered on the apathetic. Even the media chooses to stay away when the women’s team returns home.
“We play for the country rather than the sports officials. But after finishing as runners-up in the tournament, it would’ve been great motivation for us had someone from the administration or the sports council turned up to welcome us,” said Rubina Chhetri, captain of the women’s team.
On February 4, the airport was flooded with sports officials when the men’s cricket team returned home from their maiden One Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 International Series victory. Among the mammoth welcoming committee was the National Sports Council (NSC) Member Secretary Keshav Kumar Bista, who seemed locked in a race with council’s Vice-president Pitamber Timsina to reach the victorious team. Neither of the two officials was present at the TIA on Thursday.
Bista said he was unaware of the women team’s arrival. “Most of the times, I am informed by the national team coach [Jagat Tamatta] whenever any team arrives,” Bista told the Post. “But I was not informed by anyone that the women’s team had arrived. Had I known they were coming, I would have definitely gone to welcome the women.”
Chhumbi Lama, chief operating officer, and Bhawana Ghimire, former chief executive, of the suspended Cricket Association of Nepal, had been coordinating teams’ return as ICC representative to Nepal. Both officials were also absent on Thursday.
Lama said that he had prepared to welcome the women and informed NSC Vice-president Timsina about the team’s arrival. “He [Timsina] told me that he would show up. The flight delay from Thailand might have resulted in his absence,” said Lama, who excused himself as having been “caught in a meeting.”
Members of the men’s team, too, agreed that the women’s team deserved a fitting welcome, given the performance they had put in.
“It obviously doesn’t feel good if your achievements are not recognised. Not only in cricket, all women athletes need to be treated equally,” said Sompal Kami, the national men’s team fast bowling allrounder. “If they are given respect, they will be more responsible towards their job and that will bring us good results.”
Kami said that the women’s team deserves more respect than the men’s, given that they do not have the kinds of facilities the men’s cricket team enjoys. “But they are still playing the game and bringing in results,” he said.
While the men’s cricket team returns home surrounded by hundreds of cameras, a handful of media persons were present at the airport on Thursday. National women’s team coach Binod Das, who is also a former men’s team skipper, was sarcastic in his response to a lukewarm welcome.
“The most important factors in the development of our cricket are fan following, media support and a few good people around cricket. We have almost all of those. I am not worried about that anymore,” said Das.
“But in the current scenario, there are only two ways-either people get behind you and take you to the peak, or you reach the peak first and then people will get behind you. Nepali cricket is currently taking the second route. Let’s hope women’s cricket reaches that peak one day.”