Monday, 30 December 2013

Women's Ashes Predictions

Six months ago, I put my (fortunately metaphorical) money on Australia to win the Women's Ashes in England.

And although the final 12-4 scoreline somewhat mocks my soothsaying credentials, it was actually a pretty close series, which would have turned out very differently were it not for Knight and Marsh's heroic stand at Wormsley. (Had Australia got either Knight or Marsh out cheaply, England's collapse would have been complete - they'd have lost the Test and likely the series with it.)

So it will probably come as no surprise that my money is on Australia again - they are the ODI and T20 World Champions for a reason; and this time they are better-prepared than ever, with their near-full-time-professional squad riding the crest of the wave of the domestic season, while England's players have been back at their day jobs - slogging it out in cold gymnasiums while the Southern Stars train in the Aussie sunshine.

I think the weather will play a part too - the heat of the WACA had even England's fans melting during the recent men's game; so for players more used to Pidley than Perth, I've a feeling the Test could be very tough for England.

My guess therefore is that Australia will win the Test and then, with the psychological advantage of being 6-0 up, go on to take the series by a substantial margin. Such a result would flatter them, as the summer's score did England, but that's the way cricket crumbles with the points allocated as they are.

But of course, I've been wrong before... so let's keep our fingers crossed - hopefully I'll be wrong again!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Interview: Mignon du Preez

Can South African win the next women's World Cup in 2017? Team captain Mignon du Preez thinks they can! She was kind enough to speak to us about this, her off-field role, and much else besides.

Here & Now

What’s on the agenda cricket-wise for you between now and the World Twenty20?

We are playing a Tri-Series against Pakistan and Ireland in Doha at the start of 2014 for final [T20] World Cup preparation.

Domestic Cricket

What’s the structure for domestic (women’s) cricket in South Africa?

The country features approximately 16 provincial teams, divided into three major playing regions - Highveld, Coastal and Central - competing in a league format. The teams play both 50 over as well as T20 format throughout the year, with the top four provincial teams competing in the playoffs.

How many games will you play in a typical domestic season?

Give or take, eight 50 over and eight T20 provincial matches (home and away basis, these games exclude the additional playoff matches), as well as a Regional competition comprising the best players from the various regions (additional three games twice yearly).

Is domestic cricket in South Africa white or red-ball or a mixture? Do you have any preferences?

Domestic cricket is played with the red-ball given the fact that domestic playing clothes are the traditional white cricket clothes. Personally, I have no preference.

Have you ever played any “declaration” (multi-day) cricket? How do you feel about the death of women’s test cricket?

Unfortunately, the only test game in my career was on my first away tour and I had to carry the water. The only women's test cricket that I am aware of is the women's Ashes. As a result, women's test cricket is effectively dead or dying, which is a shame as we would all like to play test cricket.

International Cricket

You’ve recently come off a series with Sri Lanka - you won, but the T20 series in particular was no walk-over. Are these games against the so-called “minnows” getting harder?

The disparity between the top and bottom four has closed significantly in recent years, given the increased investment from the various cricket bodies. Women's cricket has taken a step in the right direction towards becoming more professional. In short, women's cricket has become a lot more competitive and doesn't feature "walk-over" games in the top 8 anymore.

Who’s going to be the team to beat to win the World Twenty20?

Australia, being the current champions and the West Indies being as fearless as they are, with big hitting power.

What’s the long-term goal for the Momentum Proteas? Can you win the 2017 World Cup?

Based on our recent and ongoing progress, winning the World Cup is a distinct possibility, which is essentially what we are preparing for. Some hard work still needs to be done, however I truly believe that we are on the right path and that the Momentum Proteas will become a true force in women's cricket.

Off The Field

You graduated in marketing; and now part of your off-field role as captain of the Momentum Proteas is to work on marketing the game! Was this all part of the plan?

No not initially, however I am thankful for having acquired these skills which do help me with the marketing of the game.

You are set to be the face of women’s cricket for maybe the next ten years - not just in South Africa, but globally - that’s a huge responsibility! How much training / coaching are you getting to deal with that?

That is a huge compliment and should it becomes a reality, I want to live up to such honour by staying true to my believes with integrity. In my opinion - Share a smile... it goes a long mile!  Although there is no official guideline for this, one will have to take it as "work in progress" and make sure you live up to your own expectations for a start.

What are you going to be doing day-to-day in you off-field role?

Given the short period before the T20 World Cup, my physical and mental preparation is my main focus at the moment. I recently started doing some public speaking at sport events, which I really enjoy. I also attend cricket related functions such as mini cricket (cricket for smaller children) initiatives which focus primarily on promoting the game at grass root level.

Women’s cricket is already well on the way to becoming a successful game? But what do we need to do to turn it into a successful and sustainable business?

We need to find ways to create awareness and make it much more spectacular for the public. Thus, women's cricket needs to be on display more. Maybe for a start we could play some curtain raisers for  the men's games. We will also need to find more sponsors to invest in women's cricket, since limited funds is one of the biggest problems currently. Lastly, in South Africa we will have to play a lot more competitive cricket to align ourselves with the top side in the world.

Thanks to Mignon de Preez; Women Proteas sponsor Momentum; and Antoinette Muller.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Ashes Squad Insta-Reaction

The England selectors have whittled-down the 21-gun 'Performance Squad' to 16* "seats on the plane" for The Women's Ashes in Australia.
  • Tammy Beaumont
  • Arran Brindle
  • Katherine Brunt
  • Katie Cross*
  • Charlotte Edwards
  • Georgia Elwiss
  • Natasha Farrant*
  • Lydia Greenway
  • Rebecca Grundy
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Danielle Hazell
  • Amy Jones
  • Heather Knight
  • Beth Langston
  • Laura Marsh
  • Natalie Sciver
  • Anya Shrubsole
  • Sarah Taylor
  • Fran Wilson
  • Lauren Winfield
  • Danielle Wyatt
* There are actually two 15-man squads - Cross will be replaced by Farrant for the T20s.

The big surprise for me is the inclusion of Amy Jones at the expense of Tammy Beaumont. I can only imagine this came down to a 'lesser of two evils' decision - the selectors obviously have little confidence in Jones' batting, as witnessed during the Tri-Series; but even less in Beaumont's keeping - so Jones gets the nod.

The rest of the batting then more or less picks itself; and as long as the first-choice top-of-the-order (Edwards, Knight and Taylor) stay fit, England will feel pretty confident that they can put runs on the board.

In the Seam & Swing department, the big question was whether to gamble on Georgia Elwiss, who hasn't played international cricket for the best part of a year, since the World Cup in India; but this is indeed what the selectors have done. The dilemma then was who to drop - Cross or Farrant; but in the end, the selectors have gone for a cunning work-around which hopefully leaves nobody too disappointed.

Turning finally to the spinners, with Laura Marsh injured and Holly Colvin unavailable, England will be hoping that Danni Wyatt will be fit to send down a few overs, because otherwise their spin options are limited to Dani Hazell and... er... Dani Hazell. (Although it does have to be said that if you were going to pick just one spinner, it would probably be Hazell anyway after her brilliant summer, so I'm not too worried there!)

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Why Shrubsole Deserves to be on the Cricketer of the Year Shortlist

The ICC have announced their shortlists for Cricketer of the Year, which is separated-out into the two main formats: ODI and T20. (A pity for Heather Knight that there is no award for Women's Tests; but as there was only one of them played in 2013, it is probably fair enough!)

The ODI shortlist includes two England players: Charlotte Edwards and Anya Shrubsole; and it is the latter upon whom I want to focus today.

In order to understand Shrubsole's presence on the shortlist, you have to look beyond the statistics.

Anya's numbers in 2013 were solid but not spectacular: she took 15 wickets at an average of 17. Ahead of her, Colvin (19 at 19), Brunt (17 at 19) and (a little bit of a surprise this one) Arran Brindle (15 at 15) all had better years on paper.

But the award isn't decided on paper - it is decided by a team of former players and expert journalists, including Women's TMS regular Alison Mitchel.

Shrubsole's role as one of England's opening bowlers is to be lean and mean, and in this she excels. She doesn't take all the wickets, but (along with Brunt) she sets up the platform for everyone else by roughing-up the openers and piling on the pressure which later bowlers like Colvin can exploit.

Concluding, it does have to be said that Shrubsole has no chance whatever of winning the award - Staphanie Taylor is a shoe-in for her all-round performances; but nevertheless Anya's presence on the shortlist is a major achievement in itself and underlines her importance to this England team.