India’s First National Female Umpire Is A Googly For Prevalent Gender Norms

Draped in full-sleeved white polo t-shirt and dusty black pants, twenty-nine-year-old Vrinda Rathi doesn’t mind the scorching glare on the sun on her face, nor she cares when raging strong-built cricketers make pinching comments when they lose a ball and blame the umpire for their every failure. Her short hair and stout outlook are dominated by her utter confidence. 

Dreams that rise above stereotypes

The Navi-Mumbai based fitness coach spends her workdays training and weekends on the dusty golden cricket grounds umpiring for local cricket matches. After clearing her Level - 2 BCCI examination, making her one of India’s first women umpires who can now direct national level matches. Rathi has been officiating Mumbai Association (MCA) matches since 2013 in which she umpired for junior boys matches and women’s cricket matches all across India. 

Now that she’s officially qualified after taking the exams, an increased pay isn’t the only change she’s focused on. “It’s a substantial raise,” says Rathi, But with that comes great responsibility to prove your worth,” to Time of India. 



An inspiration led journey

But her journey till now is a fascinating and inspiring series of events pumps motivation into women who are trying to break out in sports. Rathi has also broken out of the shackles of stereotypes Indian cricket has planted in its culture. 

It was that one glance at Kathy Cross,  New Zealand’s most charming umpire of the time that hit her like a ton of bricks of inspiration. Rathi was a scorer for Women’s World Cup in 2013 and it was the first time when she saw a female dominating over a male-reserved position. She decided to take the local and state level umpiring examinations, dedicating her 24 hours to qualify for her dream. “Umpiring requires you to hone your skills under the scorching sun,” she explained as along with her examinations, she was hoping for 60 match days under her belt. 



Umpiring India's home sport 

Like every sports-infested soul, she used to play as a pace bowler in University during her college days. Even though the examination doesn’t call for one’s practical experience, it definitely helped her gain credibility when “Initially, there were unsubstantiated apprehensions about the quality that a woman umpire may bring in. When everyone around knows that you mean business at the center of the field, your gender does not matter,” adds Rathi. 

Her journey to where she is today wasn’t the easiest one but blessed her with an opportunity to pursue the dream that sparked in her eyes when she first saw a female umpire. Her profession also has given her a chance to bring about a change in the game itself. “Boys also control their aggression in presence of women umpires,” says Rathi which is also an advantage on the playing field. 

Traveling to Puducherry for her first debut, she couldn’t be more excited for an opportunity like this. The trade-off one has to make for the win if often hard work, not talent. She proved that her determination despite the odds was the only factor that took her one step closer to her goal. If you’re one like her trying to break open the seal around your dreams, nothing makes much sense as an answer than grinding hard day in and day out with discipline in mind. 

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