A former scorer, an ex-software engineer and a player, whose career was cut short by injury, scripted history on Tuesday as Vrinda Rathi, Janani Narayanan and Gayathri Venugopalan became the first female trio to officiate in the prestigious Ranji Trophy.
Venugopal is officiating in the second round match between Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in Jamshedpur while Narayanan and Rathi are umpiring in the Railways versus Tripura game in Surat and Goa versus Pondicherry clash at Porvorim respectively.
Hailing from various backgrounds, the trio, already well-respected on the women’s circuit, became pioneers courtesy BCCI’s decision to draft women umpires on the men’s domestic circuit.
The 36-year-old Narayanan loved cricket and everything related to it. She wanted to be on the field and even approached Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) a couple of times to become an umpire.
A few years after the the state body changed its rule to allow women to officiate, she cleared the BCCI’s Level 2 umpiring exam in 2018 and had to think little before quitting her cushy IT job to pursue umpiring.
She has also officiated in the Tamil Nadu Premier League in 2021.
The 32-year-old Rathi, on the other hand, has risen from the maidans of Mumbai. She used to score local matches before clearing the BCCI scorers exam. She was the official BCCI scorer for the 2013 Women’s World Cup. Later on, she moved to umpiring.
Narayanan and Rathi are seasoned umpires and were also included in International Cricket Council’s (ICC) panel of development umpires back in 2020.
Veteran umpire coach Denis Burns, who has worked closely with Indian umpires and overseen their rise to the international level, had hailed the duo’s promotion to the ICC development panel.
“I think Janani and Vrinda represent the ‘new wave’ of female umpires in India,” he had said.
Delhi-based Venugopalan, 43, dreamt of becoming a cricketer but a shoulder injury quashed her hopes. She started umpiring in 2019 after clearing the BCCI exam.
She has already served as a reserve (fourth) umpire in Ranji Trophy.
The BCCI still has a lot of catching up to do with female umpires already officiating in men’s cricket in Australia and England. Out of 150 registered umpires with the BCCI, only three are women.