Indian cricket will see the start of a new initiative during the Ranji Trophy when three women umpires Vrinda Rathi, Janani Narayan and Gayatri Venugopalan will be seen officiating. This will be the first time in Indian cricket that a female umpire will officiate as an on-field umpire in a men’s cricket match. Gayatri has previously played the role of reserve i.e. fourth umpire in Ranji Trophy. The Ranji Trophy begins on December 13, coincidentally with the Indian women’s cricket team participating in a home series against Australia.
In such a situation, these three women umpires will get a chance to officiate only in selected matches in Ranji Trophy. Chennai-based Narine and Mumbai-based Rathi Manjhi are experienced umpires and were included in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) development panel of umpires in 2018. Delhi-based Gayatri along with Janani and Vrinda are the three registered women umpires empaneled by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). A BCCI official said that it would be a big challenge for these three women umpires to deal with male players.
There is a lot at stake in Ranji Trophy and players can unleash their aggression on the field. A BCCI official told PTI on condition of anonymity, “As an umpire, you cannot take a soft approach on the field, otherwise the players will try to intimidate you. You have to be tough and enforce the rules well. Communication with players is important. But these three umpires are doing a good job and hopefully they will do well in Ranji Trophy as well.” Thirty-two-year-old Rathi honed his umpiring skills in Mumbai grounds, while 36-year-old Narayan quit his job as a software engineer to officiate. .
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Venugopalan is 43 years old and started umpiring in 2019 after clearing the BCCI exam. The BCCI has a lot to do in terms of women umpiring as women have already officiated in men’s cricket in Australia and England. There are only three women umpires among the 150 registered umpires of the BCCI. “We cannot plan for their matches in Ranji Trophy but we will give them matches as per their availability,” the BCCI official said. Australia women’s team is coming to India and after that there will be tour of New Zealand A team. Apart from this, there is also domestic women’s cricket. We will need them in that too.