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Female referees Vrinda Rathi, Janani Narayanan and Gayathri Venugopalan make history in Ranji Trophy

Gayathri, a former cricketer whose career was cut short by injury, is currently taking part in the second round match between Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh at Jamshedpur. Janani, an ex-software engineer, is a referee in Surat for the match between Railways and Tripura, while Rathi, a former scorer, is in charge of the match between Goa and Pondicherry in Porvorim.

Coming from different backgrounds, the trio, already highly respected in the women’s circuit, made history thanks to BCCI’s decision to field female referees in the men’s domestic circuit.

Janani, 36, a long-time cricket enthusiast, had approached the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) a few times to become an umpire. A few years after the state body changed its rule to allow women to serve as referees, she passed the BCCI’s level 2 referee exam in 2018 and didn’t have to think twice before quitting her IT job to become a referee. Narayan has since also played in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) in 2021.

Rathi, 32, is from Mumbai. She always scored local matches before taking the BCCI scorers exam. She was the official BCCI scorer for the 2013 Women’s World Cup. She later moved on to referee.

Janani and Rathi are seasoned referees and were also included in the ICC panel of development referees in 2020.

Veteran umpire coach Denis Burns, who has worked closely with Indian umpires and overseen their rise to the international level, had praised 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.

Gayathri, 43, from Delhi, dreamed of becoming a cricketer, but a shoulder injury destroyed her hopes. She started umpiring in 2019 after passing the BCCI exam. Venugopalan has already served as a reserve (fourth) referee in the Ranji Trophy.

Although there are already several female umpires active in men’s cricket in England and Australia, of the 150 registered umpires with the BCCI, only three are female.

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