The BCCI's decision to bring women cricketers' match fees at par with men has been expectedly lauded by the fraternity, but experts say it is only one step towards making the sport gender equal and more inclusivity will be achieved when the inaugural Women's IPL gets underway in March. (More Cricket News)
The match fees will go up drastically with an ODI appearance fetching Rs 6 lakh, six times the existing structure.
Playing a Test match will give the women cricketers Rs 15 lakh, which is almost four times more than the previous four lakh.
The numbers support the rapid growth of women's cricket in India in the last five years, but if one looks at the central contracts of men and women, there is still no comparison.
A male cricketer in the A category commands a Rs 5 crore contract while it's Rs 50 lakh for women.
"It is a welcome step, it is a positive step, but we are still far from reaching gender parity if one looks at the central contracts of men and women. I am sure the BCCI will look into that in the future," said former India pacer Amita Sharma, who represented the country in five Tests, 116 ODIs and 41 T20s.
While only the cream of women's cricket will be rewarded with a massive increase in match fees, former players and captains see the upcoming Women's IPL as the game changer.
"I congratulate the BCCI on bringing the women's match fee at par with men's. The Women's IPL too is coming soon and that will positively impact a much bigger number of our female cricketers including the domestic ones. It could be life-changing for a lot of uncapped players. But we need to take one step at a time," former India captain Diana Edulji said.
"Having said that, the players will be expected to improve their performance even further. The expectations will increase naturally," she added.
The first WIPL edition will have at least five teams with each having a squad size of 18 including 12 Indians and six foreigners, taking the number of local players to a substantial 60.
The BCCI is yet to disclose the minimum base price, but a player is expected to earn at least Rs 5 lakh for a season. It may sound like nothing compared to the astronomical figures seen in the IPL but the fact that the female domestic cricketers earn between Rs 10000-20000 per game, the additional income will make a huge difference.
"Domestic players will be benefiting a great deal from the Women's IPL. The ultimate success of any initiative is when the cake is distributed among a wide group compared to a few.
"The Women's IPL will be a game changer and I am sure the BCCI will look into other areas also. Who would have thought five years ago that we would have equal match fee and there will be a Women's IPL," said another former captain Shantha Rangaswamy.
The runners-up finish at the 2017 World Cup is seen at a pathbreaking moment for women's cricket which has taken giant steps since then.
"This is truly a historic decision by the BCCI and they must be congratulated for this. I would say this is the best thing that could happen to women's cricket in India for a long time. I am sure it will revolutionize women's cricket in India," said former skipper Mithali Raj.
"Our performance in the 2017 World Cup played a big role. So have many of our bilateral series against top cricket-playing nations. This is a recognition of their efforts.
"I am sure this will not only benefit the current cricketers but many youngsters will also take up cricket as their career. Women's cricket is rapidly changing in India."
Mithali also felt that the decision will increase the pool of players and boost women's cricket at the grassroots level.
Former India player and chief selector Hemlata Kala, who played both in the pre and post-BCCI era, feels the women's game should not be compared with men's cricket.
"When we did not have BCCI recognition, we did not even have match fees. We played for the love of the game and it helped the sport survive. We have come a long way from there.
"We have seen so much growth in women's cricket in the last five years. If the team continues to make progress, our game might even match the popularity enjoyed by men's cricket. It can't happen overnight so we need to be patient," said Kala.