Business

Women's cricket seeks boost in Sri Lanka

Chamari Athapaththu of Sri Lanka in action against New Zealand during the ICC T20 Women's World Cup
Image caption New funding will make the Sri Lanka woman's team more competitive

The progress of the women's version of Sri Lanka's most popular sport, cricket, does not seem to be making the same strides in the country as the men's game.

Given its power to unite communities, cricket is considered more of a faith than a sport in the sub-continent.

But whether it is a lack of fixtures or lack of sustained business interest, that does not seem to be the case for the women's game in Sri Lanka.

Sponsor search

As part of its drive to build a more solid base around the women's game, this spring Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) launched a search for a sponsor for its National Women's Cricket Team.

The idea was that cricket "can be strengthened and the game be fostered at every level in Sri Lanka".

The SLC believes that sponsorship of the national women's team from 2010 to 2012 would allow Sri Lanka Cricket to continue developing players.

"Some of the funds that are freed will be invested in bringing international teams, coaches and trainers to Sri Lanka so that our female players can have the facilities and opportunities to be competitive on the world stage," the sponsor document adds.

More games

One way to attract more interest in women's cricket may be to create more international encounters for women's teams from smaller countries, including Sri Lanka.

Image caption Chamani Seneviratne wants to see bigger name opposition

Indeed, the national women's team captain, Chamani Seneviratne, believes the Sri Lankan team lacks international exposure, despite some other countries getting regular international encounters.

"I hope that ICC would increase the number of international matches we play as we do not have the facilities of countries like Australia and New Zealand," she says.

"I think the ICC could make a request for the countries like Australia to offer more matches to smaller countries and prepare a proper schedule for women's internationals."

Indian domination

However, according to Channaka de Silva, sports editor of the Daily Mirror English daily, women's cricket is suffering and will continue to suffer because, unlike the men's game, it has failed to attract a dedicated fan base.

And he observes that for many there is only one major commercial attraction in the region just now.

"Internationals sponsors, advertisers and broadcasters are mainly interested in the Indian team," he points out.

"Wherever the Indian team travels, there is a huge business interest in terms of fan base as well as advertising."

Losses

Sri Lanka, winner of the 1996 one-day World Cup, were the runners again in 2007, and were runners-up in the ICC World Twenty20 in 2009.

But their women counterparts have not been that fortunate.

Sri Lanka's women lost against India and New Zealand in the preliminary round after securing a nail biting one-run win over regional rival Pakistan at this year's ICC Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean.

Captain Seneviratne feels not playing the biggest names could have had an effect.

"India, for example, have played new Zealand before [the tournament], but the last time we met New Zealand was the Twenty20 World Cup in England last year," she points out.

Dubai tournament

The ICC has organised the Future Tours Programme for men's internationals after members from the sub-continent raised concern over lack of interest by the cricketing giants.

Image caption Women's cricket in Sri Lanka is seeking greater television interest

The ICC, however, says it is the responsibility of the relevant cricket board to arrange their own international fixtures for women.

And every member must play a certain number of matches "to meet the minimum requirements in women's cricket".

"The ICC actually offered teams ranked 5-10 [which includes Sri Lanka] invitations to compete at the Women's Cricket Challenge in Dubai in October 2010, but Sri Lanka was the only team to turn the offer down," ICC communications officer James Fitzgerald states.

"The ICC certainly encourages and facilitates all women's international teams to play more cricket."

The ICC also noted that Sri Lanka Cricket has appeared to have taken "a more pro-active approach" towards women's cricket recently, a fact agreed by the skipper as well as Harsha de Silva, the national women's coach.

TV exposure needed

Skipper Seneviratne is also urging the country's new sports minister to take steps to promote women's cricket in the media, television in particular, to raise the interest in the game.

"First of all the women's cricket needs to be telecast to make it more popular," she says.

"I hope the sports minister would find a sponsor for television coverage for women's cricket in Sri Lanka."

However, there has been many a controversies and corruption scandals over radio and television rights deals involved SLC in the past few years.

'Disparity'

But there has been no interest by the international broadcasters to bid for television and radio rights for international women's matches played in Sri Lanka.

"The SLC is the richest sports body in Sri Lanka," says Channaka de Silva.

"So it is the responsibility of the SLC to find sponsors to telecast women's matches though it is sometimes even difficult to find sponsors for men's games."

National women's coach, Harsha de Silva, says the women's squad is offered more opportunities and facilities since the team were taken under the management of SLC nearly a year ago.

"Yes of course there is still a disparity compared to the men's national team but the things are gradually being improved," he says.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites