Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Olympic Ambitions

Several papers are reporting a renewed push to include cricket in the Olympics. The Guardian reports:
The MCC World Cricket Committee is backing the inclusion of Twenty20 at the 2024 Olympic Games, believing it could lead to "a potential boost" in the profile of the sport.
It is unclear whether a men's competition would include the top players or not. (Tennis chooses to allow this; football doesn't, because of the fear that it would undermine the FIFA World Cup.)

Regardless, it would seem likely that a women's competition would include all of the top players and teams; and as such it could only be a good thing, with guaranteed TV coverage and global publicity... both of which were notably missing from a certain other event I could mention!

England skipper Lottie Edwards is on record as saying that she wished cricket had been part of London 2012. If she plays long enough*, she might just get her wish at Paris '24!

* Unlikely, but...!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Throwing The Dice (U19 ARCH Trophy)

Some of England's brightest young prospects have been playing cricket in the UAE this week, competing for the U19 ARCH Trophy, faithfully blogged by Martin Davies at

In his final post, Martin comments that the tournament was won "unsurprisingly" by the MCC; and I just wanted to elaborate a little on why this was indeed "unsurprising".

The final was played between Sussex (pretty-much top dogs in women's domestic cricket at the moment) and an MCC side that contained both Izzy Collis and Abigail Freeborn - two highly rated young players who hail from... er... Sussex!

So in essence the tournament was a loaded dice, with the MCC "YCs" (Young Cricketers) having creamed-off the best players from all the other teams. (More info on the composition of the MCC side here.)

I don't want to knock the ARCH as an exercise - the players gained invaluable experience; and it certainly looked on Twitter like they were having the time of their lives out in sunny UAE.

But as a "competition" the main thing we learned is that if you throw a loaded dice... it does tend to land on '6' more often than not!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

This was Great (We Should Do It More Often!)

Nothing's perfect... and the recent World Cup was no exception. The format was borked when Sri Lanka failed to read the script and started winning games, making a farce of the decision not to carry all points through from the group stages; and issues with the venues (some admittedly beyond the control of the cricketing authorities) meant several games went ahead with no TV coverage, which was unfortunate to say the least.

But overall I'd have to say that the tournament was pretty great. (Not as great as it would have been if England had won, but... you can't have everything. Apparently.)

More than anything this was because, while there was only realistically ever one winner, the race to face Australia in the final was a genuinely close call between England, West Indies and New Zealand; with Sri Lanka also 'turning up' in the group stages at least.

That's why it is such a pity that we have to wait a four-year eternity before we do it again. (Albeit with two (?) World T20s in between.)

I would agree that a quadrennial tournament makes sense for the men's game, which has test cricket to feast on; but the World Cup is the primary focus of women's cricket and an annual competition would be a key step forward in building the commercial momentum of the game, allowing kids and more casual fans the opportunity to develop an acquaintance with the players that just isn't possible when they are only on-screen once in every four years.

Sure, it is a bit of a radical step. The traditionalists won't like it; and I suspect that some of the players might be against it too, on the grounds that it would be the final mail in the coffin of women's test cricket.

But if we want to build a genuinely successful commercial future for the game, I think it is something we should consider.

Friday, 22 February 2013

21 Days Of Summer

England Women - August 2013
England Women August 2013
As you can see from the attached calendar, England's entire summer this year is packed into the space of just 21 days in August; with an Ashes test, 3 ODIs and 3 T20s - all v. Australia.

I understand that financial considerations loom large here - with the cost of the teams' hotels coming in at (on the back of an envelope) well over £15,000 per week; but still, it does seem to be taking a huge gamble on the notorious roulette wheel that is the English weather.

In fact... I'll go long and call the test right now - as a rain-affected draw! Ditto the last T20 in "sunny" Durham. (Can I get an accumulator on that Paddy?)

T20 Double-Headers a Mixed Blessing?

Raf Nicholson has been troll-hunting again, following the publication of a somewhat petty and unedifying rant about women's sport in general, and women's cricket in particular, by a local rag which I refuse to dignify with a name, let alone a link.

However, it does raise one issue with which I kind-of, sort-of, almost [That's enough qualifiers - Ed.] agree:

The T20 double-headers, featuring a women's game followed by a men's game (of which there are a couple more this summer) have been a bit of a mixed blessing.

On the positive side, they've gotten some 'numbers on the board' in terms of viewing figures; though honestly I'm not all that convinced. How many people actually turned up early enough to see the women's game at Chelmsford last year? There sure looked to be a lot of empty seats on the TV!

Which takes us to another positive: they've been covered on the TV, which can't be bad... can it?

Well... no... except... the problem with it is that it allows SKY to fulfill their 'moral' obligations to cover women's cricket, while not actually having to do anything more than turn the cameras on a couple of hours earlier. It's a bit like promoting a woman to 'Director Without Portfolio' and then claiming you've 'done your bit' to break the glass ceiling.

But the real worry is that it reinforces the perception that the women's game is an 'opening act' to the 'proper cricket' which follows; inviting exactly the kind of unwanted comparisons we see in the afore(un)mentioned article. ("Yer... but... if you put Sarah Taylor... in a cage fight... with a bear... she just couldn't [square] cut it, could she?")

I guess on balance, I'd still rather have the double-headers than not; but as blessings go... this one comes with salt as well as sugar!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Hol-Col on WWC13

England spinner Holly Colvin has been blogging about her world cup.

In a delightfully "off-message" and personal post, completely devoid of the usual cricketing-claptrap about executing her plans and/or hitting the right areas, she admits to feeling "sick" with nerves while waiting to bat; but it is her slo-mo description of that momentous final ball against Australia which I want to highlight:
We now needed three runs to win and Erin Osbourne, the Aussie offspinner, dragged one slightly short outside the off stump. The offside field is up, I’ve tried to cut the ball and instead of taking all the glory I nicked it to the ‘keeper. I was absolutely heart-broken especially as we had got so close to winning.
Hol-Col is frequently touted... by me at least... as a future England captain; which will mean an inevitable dose of "media awareness training". I just hope (probably in vain) it doesn't knock this kind of honesty too much on the head, because it was lovely to read.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Women's Cricket, Men's Cricket & Proper Cricket

Rob Steen no doubt thought he was being terribly "right-on" when he wrote this fictional "tomorrow's news" piece, about a woman playing men's cricket.

He wasn't.

What is truly insidious is the perpetuation of the underlying narrative that the women's game somehow isn't "proper cricket", and that a woman could only be genuinely validated and fulfilled by playing "proper" (i.e. men's) cricket.

I wonder if Rob thinks Serena Williams should be playing men's tennis? I wonder if he'd like to say that to her face?

* NB that if we take the story 'as written', SJT is not playing on merit.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Holly Ferling & The Team of the Tournament

Several Teams of the Tournament have included a certain ribbon-haired Australian who definitely caught the eye; but I fear a few (male?) journalists have been voting with their hearts on this one.

Alongside the superstar stuff which caught everyone's attention, there were a few other moments when it looked like Ferling didn't know one side of the ball from the other - a sentiment with which it seems Aussie coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick agreed, having preferred to field a quarter-fit Ellyse Perry in the final.

Overall, I think the ICC called this one right, when they included Ferling in their Team of the Tournament only as '12th Man'.

Critical Path

During the recent world cup, a well-known (men's) cricket blogger got into a bit of a ruck with one of her followers. The conversation went back and forth a bit, but it can be summed it in two (paraphrased) posts:

Follower: Sarah Taylor is rubbish.
Blogger: You're a sexist pig.

I declined to get involved at the time, because I didn't want to be accused of sexism; but perhaps I should have done?

The follower was quite forthright (and a bit 'absolutist') in his criticism of SJT; but he wasn't criticizing the team, still less the game; so (in my opinion) he wasn't being sexist.

In fact, arguably, it was the blogger herself who was being sexist, by expecting 'special' treatment for SJT. (Think about it this way - if Matt Prior had gotten three ducks in a row, would she have been blinking an eyelid at the opprobrium that would doubtless have followed?)

If our game is going to progress and be taken seriously, it has to be okay to criticize the players.

(But criticize the game itself... and you'll have me to answer to!)

Monday, 18 February 2013

World Cup '13 Team of the Tournament

England might not have come home with the world cup, but they did "win" the battle for inclusion in the ICC's Team of the Tournament, with 4 players in the 11 (Edwards, Colvin, Brunt and Shrubsole) to Australia's 3½ (Haynes, Fields and Schutt, with Ferling named as 12th Man... er sorry... 12th "Player").

This honor is well-deserved in all four cases, with opening bat Charlotte Edwards scoring two centuries; the strike bowling partnership of Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt taking 25 wickets between them (despite Shrubsole missing (in effect) two games); and Holly Colvin bowling more overs than anyone else in the tournament with impressive economy and control.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Who Is Elite Women's Cricket For?

A serious question: who is elite women's cricket for?

To understand our terms of reference here, let's consider the question with regard to elite men's cricket.

Elite men's cricket is a commercial enterprise, which exists for the enrichment of the administrators, via the entertainment of the fans. It is for the fans and the administrators. It's as simple as that.

So what about elite women's cricket, which currently has a relatively small (if growing) fan-base and certainly isn't enriching any administrators right now?

Until fairly recently the answer to this question was actually pretty simple: women's cricket was "for" the players, who were expected to dig deep into their own pockets in order to play at the pinnacle of their sport, in the world cup.

Things began to change in 2005, when the ICC took over women's cricket; and now most of the top players are at least semi-professional. (The bulk of the England team, for example, have jobs which are effectively "sponsored" by the ECB, allowing them the flexibility to train seriously, if not full-time.)

The situation is still "evolving" though... and that's putting it mildly. At a domestic match last summer, I overheard Sarah Taylor (widely regarded as the best female player in the world) going around the pavilion begging for a lift to the railway station, so she could get home after the game! Another England regular, Dani Wyatt, drives (IIRC) a beat-up Ford Fiesta. In short, these girls* are hardly living the life of Second Division (4th-tier) footballers, let alone Premiership ones!

So clearly the players themselves are there because they love cricket - they might not be paying their own air-fares any more, but almost all of them could find financially more lucrative careers if they wanted, of that I'm certain.

But still, the game isn't quite for them any more. It is also for "us" - the fans who go to matches; and the administrators who (one would assume) would like to see women's cricket at least pay its way. (It is currently heavily subsidized by the men's game.)

So we have an odd 'half-way' situation; and women's cricket stands at a crossroads. It can go one of two ways - back into "for the players" obscurity; or forwards, into a new era of "for the fans" success.

I've never played women's cricket; and let's face it I probably never will... for obvious reasons!

But I am a fan... so no surprises for guessing which way I'd like it to go!

* A word I feel slightly uncomfortable using, but one which the players tend to use themselves.