Clear communication with the players and not getting intimidated by aggressive appeals will be the key when the trio of female umpires -- Vrinda Rathi, Janani Narayan and Gayathri Venugopalan -- break new ground and officiate in the Ranji Trophy.
It will be a first for Indian cricket when female umpires officiate in men's cricket matches, even as Gayathri has served as a reserve (fourth) umpire in the Ranji Trophy in the past.
With the Ranji Trophy, beginning December 13, coinciding with the Indian women's cricket team’s home series against Australia, the three female officials will only get to do select matches in the men's first-class competition.
Chennai-based Narayanan and Mumbai-based Rathi are seasoned umpires and were included in the International Cricket Council's panel of development umpires back in 2018.
Delhi-based Gayathri, who could not make it as a player, is among the three registered umpires in the BCCI panel besides Janani and Vrinda.
A BCCI official said dealing with the male players will be a big challenge for the female trio.
Stakes are high in Ranji Trophy and tempers can flare in the middle.
"As umpires you can't be too soft in the middle. Otherwise, the players would try to intimidate them. You have to be tough and implementation of the rules has to be perfect. The communication with the players is key. But all these three are doing well and should do well," the official, who did not wish to be named, said.
The 32-year-old Rathi has risen from the maidans of Mumbai while 36-year-old Narayan left her cushy job as a software engineer to pursue umpiring. Venugopalan, 43, started umpiring in 2019 after clearing the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s examination.
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.
"We can't plan their games in Ranji Trophy but we will give them opportunities as per their availability. The Australian team is coming to India and it will be followed by New Zealand A side and then you also have domestic women's cricket. We need their services there as well.
"All three are very promising umpires and as per BCCI's vision, we want to promote more female umpires in men's cricket. We will ensure that more women give exams in future but we have not set a limit," he added.