Saturday, 30 November 2013

Summer 2014: England v India

In the absence of something akin to the ICC's Future Tours Program, following women's cricket can be a bit of a lucky dip - you never know what you're going to get, or quite when you're going to get it; with some tours being announced just weeks in advance!

So it is no surprise that I haven't seen anything official about next summer yet; but nevertheless The Scarborough News reports that England will be entertaining India on Friday August 29th 2014 at Scarborough Cricket Club - so it looks like that will be one of the two series we can expect next summer.

Although India have slipped down the rankings a bit in recent years, they are still a top, top side so this is a series I'm looking forward to already.

(And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go Google 'hotels in Scarborough'!)

Friday, 15 November 2013

Hol-Col Gotta Do What Hol-Col Gotta Do

Even if you're one of the 'lucky ones' - a Premier League footballer or an England (men's) cricket player on a big-money central contract - it must niggle at the back of your mind.

And for those who pursue a career in sport but don't get so lucky, either because they aren't quite good enough or because their sport doesn't pay the big bucks, that voice must be louder-still:

"What the hell am I gonna do when I reach 'That Age' where I can't kick/throw/hit the ball quite so well any more?"

As everyone who reads this blog knows by now, England spinner Holly Colvin has decided she isn't hanging around to find out - she's taking a break from the game right now (aged 24) to "establish [herself] in a career outside cricket."

And who can blame her? Not me! Holly Colvin is a super-intelligent person (4 A grades at A-level) who deserves the opportunity to build a career which will sustain her and her loved ones for life - and she'll make a success of it too, be in no doubt about that!

It would be easy to argue that this is a direct result of the failure of the ECB to sort out 'proper' central contracts for our women cricketers; but to be fair, I think in this case it is a bit more complicated than that.

This is partly because Holly has already had a longer international career (9 years) than most are able to sustain; and secondly, because she is perhaps the one player from the existing group of established team-members who has the capacity to make a lot more money doing something else - so even if she were on a contract earning (say) £50,000 (roughly what the top Australian players are earning, I believe) she would have realistic options that others probably wouldn't.

I'm sad right now. Very sad. But Holly: you gotta do what you gotta do.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Tale Of Two Twit-Pics

With only a few weeks to go until the next Women's Ashes, two photos recently appeared within hours of each other on Twitter.

So while the Southern Stars are training in the sunshine, Lottie & Co. are back at their day-jobs, coaching coaches for Chance To Shine - a worthy enterprise to be sure... but I wonder who is going to be better prepared when the teams walk out at the WACA in Perth in six weeks time?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Does The Women's County Championship Actually Exist? (Royal London Don't Seem To Think So!)

The ECB and Royal London have been everywhere this week, publicising the insurance group's sponsorship of "all" 50-over cricket in England - not just ODIs but domestic cricket too.

Royal London are sponsoring a whole array of competitions, right down to a 32-county Under-13 girls cup... which is fantastic!

But hang on... let's take a closer look at that list: men's ODIs, women's ODIs, a men's county cup, a (men's) club cup, girls cricket and boys cricket.

There seems to be something missing: the Women's County Championship!

I know, I know: nobody cares about the Women's Country Championship - the audience consists of a handful of tragics (myself included) and the family of beautiful red kites that swoop over Berkshire's Wokingham ground during matches.

(I am assured that the red kites are genuine fans; and suggestions that they just have their eye on Tammy Beaumont for a light snack are entirely wide of the mark!)

So, yes, nobody cares!


Possibly if we GOT some decent sponsorship for the Women's County Championship, and actually GAVE it some proper publicity, people would START CARING!

Update (April 2014): In the end, it looks like Royal London are sponsoring the WCC after all. So, all's well that ends well, I guess! 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Women's T20 'Top 4' (They Aren't Who You Think They Are!)

Who are the 'Top 4' women's international teams?

Easy: England, Australia, New Zealand and India.


Wrong! (At least as far as T20 is concerned.)

Since 2010, these are the 'Win Percentages' for the top teams:

West Indies61%
New Zealand49%
South Africa46%

They say in football that the table never lies; and although the West Indies numbers are slightly skewed by having played Sri Lanka 15 times since 2010, winning 11 of those games, with 1 'No Result'; the Windies are also the only team not to have a losing-percentage against England during that period - it is 4-4 there, with one tie.

So I think the conclusion is clear: the T20 'Top 4' are now England, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies.

Building On Momentum: The Plan for Women's Cricket In South Africa

In October 2013, Cricket South Africa made a major announcement: no fewer than six leading women's cricket players, including team captain Mignon de Preez, had been awarded central contracts for the forthcoming season.

As a statement of intent, it was of itself a clarion call. In the murky semi-professionalism of women's cricket, it's often difficult to make exact comparisons between what the different countries are doing; but nevertheless it is pretty clear that this deal puts South Africa firmly towards the top-end of the table - behind Australia certainly; but ahead of New Zealand and perhaps England too.

Behind all the different approaches, there lies a common problem: how to pay for a game that can't (yet) pay for itself?

Interested to understand how South Africa planned to square this circle, I spoke to Charlene Lackay from the team's official sponsor - financial services company Momentum.

Momentum are the "headline" sponsor for the team, which is set to be branded "The Momentum Women's Proteas" - but even so, I wondered: was there really going to be much Return on Investment, headlining a sport that ranks (at best) a distant third even in women's sports, behind tennis and golf?

Charlene's answer was both more nuanced and more fascinating than I would ever have expected.

Momentum's corporate goals are long-term. Traditionally an "investor" brand, they aim to grow their business by moving into the consumer space with a full range of family financial services - from car insurance, through healthcare, to investments. The new, consumer-focused Momentum is about 'You + Your Family' and they went looking for sponsorship opportunities which reflected that.

Cricket offered part of the answer so this, via the sponsorship of (men's) ODIs and domestic tournaments; but Momentum also realised that they wouldn't be able to just march-in, hand over the cheque book, and expect to get results. Instead, they needed to work with Cricket South Africa to help build the kind of atmosphere around game with which they wanted to be associated. Hence their promotion of Momentum Family Seating Areas at matches, where alcohol, smoking and swearing are forbidden; and Momentum Qwik-Cricket style kids games on the outfield during innings breaks.

Momentum's association with women's cricket takes this to a whole new level. Women's cricket in South Africa is tiny; but where most sponsors would see this as a problem, Momentum see it as an opportunity to help build a game which reflects their corporate values of inclusiveness, gender-equality and family. It's about more than getting the Momentum name on Mignon du Preez's shirt - that's nice, but it's only a start. The bigger challenge is to get the players out there, building the game from the ground up - coaching the next generation - turning women's cricket into the strong, competitive sport which will be even more proud to sponsor in eight or ten years time. So, that's the plan: to send the contracted players out, into the towns and cities, to build support for the women's game over the long term - nurturing not just the players of tomorrow, but the fans too.

What I personally find so inspiring about this is the proactive approach - it's so full of optimism: women's cricket isn't a viable business, so let's make it one! That's the plan… and as someone who passionately believes in women's cricket, I for one will not be betting against them.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Next England Captain Will NOT Be...

When Jenny Gunn stood-in for Charlotte Edwards as England captain, during the recent tour of West Indies, there was some speculation that the selectors were sending out a message - marking Gunn out as the anointed successor to Edwards when the skipper retires.

I think that the selectors were sending out a message... but not that one!

When a vice-captain is appointed, they are (to borrow recent analogies from the men's game) either Alistair Cook or Matt Prior.

The appointment of Cook as vice-captain to Andrew Strauss was a clear signal - Cook was the next-in-line; and although there was a "process" when Strauss retired, there was never really any doubt about the outcome.

The appointment of Matt Prior as vice-captain to Cook was intended to send completely the opposite message. No one (including clearly the man himself) believes that Matt Prior will ever captain England on a permanent basis, so the signal is the opposite one - there is no "heir-apparent" - the selectors are genuinely unsure who the actual next-in-line is, so they are stalling.

And this is what is happening with the women right now. There are several possible candidates: Taylor? Colvin? Knight? Indeed, if Edwards does carry-on until 2017 (as she keeps saying she will) it could even be someone who hasn't played for England yet such as Jess Watson or Sophie Luff.

So instead of walking into an anointment, the selectors hedged; and we don't know who the next England captain will be, because they don't either!

But we can be pretty sure about one thing: Jenny Gunn has been a fantastic player for England - so reliable; so dependable; so many wickets - but she will NOT be the next England captain.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Par Scores In Women's T20

Since January 2010, the traditional "Big Four" (Australia, England, India and New Zealand) have played each other 61 times, with 60 results and 1 tied game.

Highest Score 1661
Lowest Score 622
Average Score 119
Average Losing Score 114
Average WINNING Score 126
(1) Australia (v New Zealand, 2011)
(2) India (v Australia, 2011)

All the usual caveats of course apply: there are lies, damned lies and statistics!

Nevertheless, it does suggest that a run-a-ball 120 is round-about a par score amongst the top teams.

ODI Series v West Indies

Random thoughts on England's 2-0 ODI Series victory:
  • The talk of England having "made history" is a little overstated - the "history" in question (West Indies' last home series defeat) only goes back 10 years. Moreover, it is a little arrogant to be crowing over anything when you've just lost a T20 "rubber" 3-0 to the same opposition!
  • The New Zealand fan who called Sarah Taylor "criminally overrated" during the Tri-Series has some humble pie to eat now; but it does have to be admitted that Sarah is frustrating, because this wasn't a "return to form" - she is always this good, leaving you too often feeling that she's giving her wicket away, as happened a few times during the T20s.
  • If the selectors have any sense, they will spend the next month in church - praying that Heather Knight is going to come back with her form intact. The word on the street is that she is pretty-much recovered from her injury and that's good, because the batting is looking desperately short of backbone without her.
  • Holly Colvin had a poor summer by her standards, with her return from injury not going smoothly; so I hope I'm not jinxing her when I say that she's BACK! Obviously the wickets in the 3rd ODI were great; but for a player whose game has always been about landing it on the proverbial sixpence, I'm more excited about the six maidens she bowled in the previous match.
  • Whether Katie Cross has done enough to put herself on the plane to Australia is an open question. As Laura Malkin pointed out on Twitter, there are several other bowling options coming back from injury (Brunt, Shrubsole, Marsh, Elwiss) and England have maybe invested too much in Farrant not to take her to Oz, even if she doesn't play. (The irony being that (if I recall correctly) Cross was in exactly Farrant's situation on the last Ashes tour down-under, when she traveled more for the experience rather than any expectation that she would actually get a game.)