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WINS / By Rica Roy in India

Female cricket coaches are in high demand in India after successful stints in inaugural WPL

Anju Jain was the assistant coach of the UP Warriorz in the inaugural WPL and says the experience has changed her life. (Supplied: Anju Jain)

You may not have heard the names Anju Jain, Hemlata Kala or Nooshin Al Khadeer. But all three women have made a name for themselves in Indian cricket.

Before the Women's Premier League (WPL), opportunities for female coaches were few and far between.

But former Indian wicketkeeper Jain says the WPL has changed her life.

"I was left without words," Jain said.

"The moment [it was announced] meant a lot to me, personally.

"I had been an Indian cricketer for 12 years and a coach for longer, but this was life-changing."

Anju Jain played as a wicketkeeper and right-hand batter for India and is now coaching women in the game. (Supplied: Anju Jain)

Out of the five teams in the WPL, two had women as head coaches. Charlotte Edwards led the Mumbai Indians and Rachel Haynes the Gujarat Giants.

Jain was assistant coach of the UP Warriorz and has embraced an influx of work after her stint with the team. She says now, there's no doubt she's in the right place, at the right time.

"Last year my work began in August and the season in India ended in March," she said.

"This year it will begin in May as the age group camps of the National Cricket Academy's zonal centres begin."

Al Khadeer is a former Indian team bowler and took up the role as bowling coach for the Gujarat Giants.

The former world number one wicket taker says female coaches are now a lot more visible.

"The WPL has brought more in professionalism. Coaches are treated with a lot more respect than they were earlier.

"It has just rendered another complexion to women's cricket wherein people inside and outside are more respectful of the job we do."

Nooshin Al Khadeer is a former India bowler and was bowling coach for the Gujarat Giants. (Supplied: Nooshin Al Khadeer)

Indian coaches in high demand

Indian coaches like Jain are now sought after, with their calibre being recognised by leagues across the globe.

At the recent Fairbreak Invitational in Hong Kong, a tournament that was the brainchild of former Australian all-rounder Lisa Sthalekar, Jain was head coach of the Tornadoes.

In the tournament, a total of 90 players from 28 countries were spread across six teams.

"It is a great opportunity, my team consists of 15 girls from 10 countries," Jain said.

"The learning that I have here helps me return as a better coach."

Al Khadeer feels this is just the beginning, with Indian coaches now able to dream of plying their trade in the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) or the Hundreds.

"There is a lot of exchange of culture, ideas, and strategies," Al Khadeer said.

"The WPL has given us the opportunity to get noticed and get call-ups from teams in other leagues."

Benefits amid compromises

Hemlata Kala, former Indian cricketer and assistant coach of the Delhi Capitals, feels the WPL has opened up opportunities for further learning too.

She says she wasn't good at holding a conversation in English, but being in a dressing room with coaches of other nationalities helped her pick it up.

"The problem I faced was that mostly I speak in Hindi and my coaches were English spoken," Kala said.

"Despite that, I adjusted well. In the beginning I was anxious about settling in, but my colleagues and the cricketers also helped me feel at home. I feel I can work in the foreign leagues now."

On the other hand, with work now year-round, the female coaches stay in camp with the team more often. It means more time away from their families.

'With opportunities challenges will come," Kala said.

"One has to either have a good support system or build a support system."

The way forward

According to Kala, money also talks.

"When men's IPL started, we thought when would we get this money, this exposure?" Kala said.

"In 2017 when I was selection committee's head, I went to Rajasthan to pick girls for the World Cup and there were 30 to 40.

"After 2017 there were more than 150 girls up for selection. That is because the Board of Control for Cricket in India had announced a five million rupees ($91,000 AUD) cash prize.

"It made parents believe that cricket could be a serious career.

Nooshin Al Khadeer and Shafali Verma hold the Under 19's Women's World Cup trophy. (Supplied: Nooshin Al Khadeer)

"The financial benefits through WPL will help the talent pipeline grow and so will the quality of cricket and life of a woman cricketer."

According to Al Khadeer, the same goes for coaches.

"A women's team coach has unlimited opportunities now," she said.

"Coaches like us, who work round the year have the opportunity to earn much more because what we used to earn in 6 months to a year earlier, we now earn in 3-4 months.

But ultimately, the silver lining is forging the way for future generations.

"We are laying the foundation for coaches to come in the next 7-10 years," Al Khadeer said.

Jain agrees.

"Most girls are discouraged beyond a certain age because parents want them to study, to get married," she said.

"WPL is causing a shift in the mindset. The new-age parents are seeing potential in performance.

"As mentors and role models we need to convince all parents that devoting time to cricket in the initial years is not bad, because even if a WPL contract does not materialise, her future is secure."

Rica Roy has 22 years’ experience covering sport in India. She is currently the Sports Editor of NDTV and anchors the award-winning TV show, Turning Point.

She is a member of ABC International Development's Women in News and Sport Initiative, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Team Up program.

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