GS Lakshmi is set to become the first woman to umpire a men’s One-Day International match. The Indian referee will be watching over the opening match of the third series of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2, which is to be held in the United Arab Emirates. The match she is umpiring in is set for December 8th, at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
This serves as Lakshmi’s second major landmark for the year - she was earlier appointed as a member of the ICC International Panel of Match Referees. There again, she was the first woman to be appointed.
The 51-year-old has been an official in women’s cricket for over a decade now, having made her bow as a match referee in a domestic women’s match in 2008-09. Since then, she has officiated in three women’s ODIs, 16 men’s T20Is, and 7 women’s T20Is.
Speaking of her historic moment, Lakshmi was in buoyant spirit, “It feels great,” she said, “having anything assigned ‘first’ to your name gives me a sense of pride. This being a big ICC event, it feels great to be officiating at this level.”
She also hopes that other women can take after her example and try to forge careers as match referees. Her appointment should serve to open a pathway for many more women to join the ranks of match officials, given that there have been calls for change in this regard.
This news is especially timely given Indian umpire Sundaram Ravi’s dismissal from ICC’s Elite Panel of Umpires, meaning that no Indian umpire now sits on that panel. Former umpire Simon Taufel spoke about this, and highlighted a need for India to undertake grassroots-level work in improving the quality of umpires in the country, and stories like Lakshmi’s might just help push the BCCI towards that step.
Over the last year, the number of domestic matches has more than doubled, but the number of umpires available has not increased in the same fashion. When better, then, for women to gatecrash this stag party? There is a desperate need for new umpires, and there exists a dearth of quality in what umpires are there right now.
Lakshmi said, “These qualification events provide a good platform to prepare officials and provide them opportunities to gain valuable experience. I hope my promotion to the ICC International Panel of Match Referees and records like this can inspire many females. This is definitely another career opportunity for women.”
Adrian Griffith, ICC’s Senior Manager for Umpires and Referees congratulated Lakshmi on her accomplishment, and stated that her appointment should highlight the opportunities awaiting women in cricket.
Lakshmi’s breakthrough will hopefully break down the patriarchal dam that has barred women from this field to this point, and we should see plenty of others following in her footsteps soon.