Cricket sensation Anjum Chopra on gender equality in sports broadcasting

UNESCO is pleased to make the audio and text of this interview available copyright-free for the celebration of World Radio Day 2018. Radio stations are especially encouraged to broadcast the interview, either in its totality or by extracting the answers and announcing the questions themselves.

UNESCO spoke to Ms. Anjum Chopra on her experiences as a woman broadcaster in India. Ms. Chopra has many firsts to her name, including the first woman cricketer to commentate on Men's cricket matches, and the first Indian women player to score a century in a one-day international (ODI) match. She has comfortably donned many hats as a commentator, coach and selector.

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Q. Commentary is mostly dominated by men in cricket, how was it like breaking that barrier? 

The media, or even the audience, took it very positively. In terms of men taking it well, it was a mixed bag to begin with, as to why a woman is sitting here and what has she got to contribute. I always felt that if I have been entrusted with the task of doing something, I should do it to the best of my abilities and to the abilities that is actually expected out of me as a broadcaster. So, I have never seen it as a boy's thing or a woman's thing. I have always seen the sport as a gender neutral sport.

Q. As a woman commentator, were you ever stereotyped? 

Male commentators will get a slightly bigger advantage because it is still considered that a male voice talking about the sport is probably better than a female voice talking about the sport, or something that people would like to listen to. So very few people have still graduated. I am saying not many people, I am saying very few people have graduated till now to saying, “OK, it doesn't matter whether male voice or a female voice, it is a cricketer's voice”. So I won't say a lot of change. But yes, it has changed, but that improvement tends to happen over a period of time since you are a sportsperson.

Then there is media coverage, and things do tend to improve rather than going downhill. After the Women's World Cup, things have certainly improved in a big way. At least now, out of ten people on average, earlier six of them never knew that there was women's cricket, and two of them would say, "Yeah, we have heard of them but we don't know their names". But now the number would have changed. Now six people would definitely say, "Yeah, we do know women play cricket", and out of those, may be two or three could say the captain's name or the players' names. 

The eyeballs were definitely caught on after the 2017 [Cricket] World Cup in England and largely to the fact that the Indian women's team played the final and that final was televised. Lot of people have changed their opinion. I think, media has played a tremendous hand in the improvement of how people watch women's cricket or women sports in the world. If you see over the last five to six years, sports and women in sports have really come about in a big manner. People have started recognising and realising that it is important for women to play sports, because the media has been able to highlight it in the best light. So I think, media plays an important role.

I might be a world champion in my own society but if media doesn't cover it or doesn't write about it, nobody in the world would actually know that I am the world champion. That's the kind of impact, the role of media is. So, for me, I would say that yes, keep supporting sports, keep supporting women's sports and keep talking and writing about them.

What is your message for World Radio Day?

Keep listening to me, keep asking me to come and have a chat on World Radio Day with UNESCO. I would love to do that. And keep watching women in sports.