New Delhi, July 6 : Indian women's cricket team is appreciated and respected like their male counterparts in today's time, feels the captain of the ship Mithali Raj who credits the team's impressive stint at the World Cup in 2017 for turning the tide in their favour.
From increase in the amount that is paid to them as part of central contract; to their games being televised now for people to see; to the large number of support staff that travels with them, players now have more reason to focus on their performance.
"I think the acceptance of the people has changed. They can now see it is not just about men but women also play equally well," Mithali told IANS on phone from Mumbai when asked about changes that she had seen in the people's perception from the time they started.
The 34-year-old is the official ambassador for the new campaign of Rio Tinto's Australian Diamonds programme that helps promote popularity of diamonds in fashion and bridal jewellery, particularly for younger Indians.
Talking more about the change in perception, she said: "There is lot of following after the world cup.
With increasing number of followers, most of the matches are being televised. Also, with the BCCI (Board Of Control For Cricket In India) coming in, we are now centrally contracted players.
The players can actually invest more time in improving their games rather than thinking about jobs."
She said that after a particular age everybody wants to be financially secure.
With the central contract players knwo they can earn on an yearly basis. "Players who come from the interiors (of the country) and are not economically well off can now breathe easier because we have proper financial support," she added.
She also says that earlier when a player suffered from an injury, it was considered that her career was over.
"But now you know you have access to the National Cricket Academy where you have the best trainers and physicians to see that you receive proper treatment so that you can continue with your career.
These are the changes that we never had before," she said.
"Earlier, we just travelled with a manager and a coach.
But now we have a support staff that looks after every area of the team," she said.
Indian Women's cricket team gave an impressive performance at the World Cup last year emerging as the runners up.
Chasing a victory target of 229 runs, the Indian team lost to England by nine runs at Lord's.
Some of the biggest takeaways from the match was the wonderful bowling by Jhulan Goswami and spell-bounding innings by Harmanpreet Kaur, Shikha Pandey and Veda Krishnamurthy and undoubtedly the well planned mind of Mithali.
The 34-year-old captain says that 2017 gave to the nation Team India as a brand.
"I would put it this way that the brand is Indian women's cricket team.
We are all products of that brand at the end of the day," she said.
She emphasized that world cup had changed everything for the team.
"When you see a team play first time on television, you make our own judgment or opinion about the players and the team.
People know exactly where the team stands and how good they are. Overall, wherever the women cricketers go in the country, everybody acknowledges and appreciates the effort put in by them as equal as men's cricket," she said.
Her team also played an exhibition match at the Indian Premier League (IPL) in May, this year so is she hoping to see an IPL format dedicated to female players?
"We dont have that many players to have as many teams as the IPL men's cricket has.
So it is important that we get quality players and have equal number of foreign players from good teams so that the standard of women' s cricket team which is displayed during these tournaments is good enough for people to come and watch," she said.
"I think it will take a couple of more years but I am sure it will happen in the near future," said Mithali who is also coming up with her autobiography at the end of September this year.
"I am thrilled because as an avid reader myself, I had never forseen that I will come up with a book on my journey in the cricket.
But today I am doing that. I am looking forward to share my experiences and my life journey with people. A lot of things which probably in all these years I have not been able to share will be done though my book," she said.
(Nivedita can be contacted at email@example.com)