It will be difficult to find an instance in which an Indian sportsman has ever been asked at an international platform who his favourite woman counterpart from the same sport is. Were they asked this, it would help focus the much-needed spotlight on women's sports.
So when the captain of India's women's cricket team, Mithali Raj, was asked who her favourite male cricket star is, on the eve of the Women's World Cup at a media roundtable event, she was taking no prisoners.
"Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer? Do you ask them who their favourite female cricketer is? I have always been asked who's your favourite cricketer but you should ask them who their favourite female cricketer is," Raj was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.
Lately, there have been a concerted effort to regularise pay for women's cricket. Women cricketers are now due to get more money per game and higher daily allowance.
However, if anything, the inherent gender bias in sports, as Raj pointed out is evident from the question, is still the primary reason why women's sports in India do not get the coverage they deserve despite having a wealth of talent. The overall sexism and alienation of sportswomen from certain states are issues women have raised time and again.
"Do you ask the same question to a male cricketer? Do you ask them who their favourite female cricketer is?"
Recently, women cricketers from Kashmir were asked who they supported during India and Pakistan's crucial Champions Trophy Final, casting doubts on their allegiance to their country, since a group of separatists in J&K want to break away from the Indian state. Kashmiri women cricketers, during an interview also demanded that instead of expressing concern for their state's "misguided youths", current and former Indian cricketers should come to Kashmir and coach their team so both aspiring young women and men cricketers can benefit from their expertise.
"There is a still a lot of catch-up to do in terms of recognition," Raj added.
Though she did admit that "all of us follow men's cricket because we want at some point that women's cricket would be up there," and that male coaches are harder taskmasters than women and bring a different level of intensity to the game.
However, the responses to this tweet by Melbourne-based cricket writer Adam Collins, retweeted several thousand times, are proof why Raj has hit the nail on the head. The tone of responses ranged from cluelessness to plain, appalling sexist.
Take a look.
.I am not against women's cricket.Im not even a cricket fan. Women's cricket will never be equal to mens cricket.unfortunately— Anton Szandor Lavey (@CliffofDovers) June 22, 2017
women cricket is not famous yet. the people does not watch women cricket with keen.— Syed Nabeel Ahmed (@SyedNabeelAhmd) June 22, 2017
It's just a normal question. She created a scene in that.— தீப்பொறி (@theepori_) June 22, 2017
people have become overly touchy now...almost acting in compulsion to force themselves to interpret a normal ques in sexist/ racist way😿😿— anuradha_dighe (@anuradha_dighe) June 22, 2017