Cape Town - Over the past week or so, there has been some heated, sometimes illogical debate around the mere suggestion of equal pay in South African cricket.
It stemmed from an interview Sport24 did with Cricket South Africa (CSA) acting CEO Thabang Moroe on May 25. Moroe, in discussing the new Memorandum of Understanding between CSA and the South African Cricketers Association (SACA), spoke of the importance of improving the financial situation of the country's top women cricketers.
Moroe went as far as saying that, eventually, CSA wanted a situation where the men and women Proteas were paid the same.
And then, in one massive, unified hissy fit, a group of South African men threw a strop without taking the time to actually examine what Moroe was saying.
It would have been funny if it was not so revealing.
There can simply be no negatives in trying to get our male and female cricketers on the same pay grade. All it translates to is an attempt to grow the women’s game. It is not about 'us' versus 'them', it is about developing cricket and making it as popular as possible in South Africa.
CSA has a responsibility to grow the women's game as much as it does to grow the men's game.
Former Proteas batsman Boeta Dippenaar then went out of his way to put his foot in it with a column questioning the idea of equal pay, suggesting that South Africa's women cricketers do not have the same responsibilities as the men.
While I was never 'bored' by his batting (check Marizanne Kapp’s tweet for reference), I do feel that Dippenaar was out of line here.
The women train just as hard as the men, and they sacrifice the same amount, if not more.
Laura Wolvaardt, for example, has had to put a degree in medicine on hold to focus on her cricket demands while having children and starting a family is naturally more disruptive to a women's career than a man's. That must be acknowledged.
Proteas women's captain Dane van Niekerk, meanwhile, responded to Dippenaar by revealing that she had spent one month at home in the past year due to her cricket commitments.
Those who went on the defensive need to understand that nobody is saying or has said that the current women Proteas must be paid the same as the men NOW.
Van Niekerk herself acknowledged that such thinking is unrealistic.
At this stage, the commercial value of women's cricket is nowhere even remotely near that of the men, but that does not mean that the gap cannot close in the years and decades to come.
It will not happen overnight, but with the women's Big Bash League now well established and with the women's IPL emerging, things are changing. We are slowly seeing more women's cricket on our screens and in our media, and that ultimately translates to more platforms that generate income.
When Billie Jean King launched the WTA in 1973, there were only nine women signed up to what would become to hub of professional women's tennis.
Today, women are paid the same as men in all four Grand Slams and the likes of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep are commercial goldmines.
The point is that the focus needs to be on the future, not the present, and we cannot just shrug our shoulders and presume that women’s cricket will never generate as much interest as men’s. If that is going to be the attitude, then we might as well not even try.
Van Niekerk, oozing class at Saturday night’s CSA Awards, explained clearly that the fight was not for her and her team-mates, but for the generations to come.
She and the rest of the current crop of Proteas are serious about doing all they can to lay a foundation for those that come after them. They are pioneers.
There was a noticeable push for the women’s game at the Awards on Saturday night. There were four women’s categories – up from three in 2017 – while the main event of the evening saw Kagiso Rabada and Van Niekerk share the stage as they were named Cricketers of the Year.
It was a small, but symbolic touch.
Young schoolchildren in South Africa do not have many women heroes in sport, and it is gestures like these that will hopefully begin to change that.
It is going to take a long time, and the struggle is only just beginning, but the groundwork has been laid for what is looking an increasingly bright future for the women’s game in South Africa.
Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...
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