Saturday, 19 April 2014

Lanning Not Mentioning WICL

In a relentlessly on-message interview with The Guardian, Meg Lanning talks about the future of women's cricket, saying:

"I think the next natural step is definitely a women’s Big Bash."

Yet as far as I know, there are no actual plans for a women's BBL. There are aspirations I'm sure, possibly even sincere aspirations, but that's not quite the same thing as actual plans!

Of course, there are actual plans for something - the Women's International Cricket League - but Lanning has clearly been told by her media-minders at Cricket Australia not to mention the war WICL.

A more cynical man than me might think that it's almost as if Cricket Australia see the WICL as a threat, which they are now trying to quietly smother in its cradle, before it starts walking around and causing trouble, by offering the players a genuine alternative to their current indentures!

(It's a good job I'm not that cynical!)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Interview: Scottish Women's Cricket Association

We spoke to Kari Carswell to get the full story on the SWCA.

It's an exciting time for women's cricket everywhere, and no more so than in Scotland, where Head of Women's Cricket Kari Carswell and her team of enthusiasts and volunteers are starting to build the structures that they hope will one day take the national team - the Wildcats - to the World Cup.

Five years ago, women's cricket in Scotland was at a low ebb, with the national side languishing in the lower depths of the international rankings; and no coherent structures in place for the domestic game.

In 2014 however, things are looking up - with an 8-team elite 'National League' topping a domestic pyramid which includes competitions at all levels, from adult recreational to high school and junior Kwik Cricket for girls.

Now the launch of the SWCA looks to build on this. We started by asking Kari about the explicit aims of the project:

"The SWCA wants to see more girls and women playing cricket, whether that is recreationally or striving to play within the performance programmes. The SWCA also want more females involved in cricket, as scorers, umpires or team managers."

It is important to understand that the SWCA isn't an independent, break-away organisation. It continues to exist within the framework of Cricket Scotland:

"It is very much a partnership with Cricket Scotland with the SWCA initially focusing on supporting the programmes already running."

But in terms of marketing and promotion, it offers a genuinely refreshing opportunity to provide additional visibility and focus for the women's game:

"SWCA can have a real influence on outsiders and reach out to people who don’t know that girls’ and women’s cricket in Scotland exists! Having more people spreading the word about girls’ and women’s cricket can only be a good thing."

At the moment, Kari is the full-time, paid staff of the SWCA, and while she is quick to pass credit onto others who give their time for the love of the game, she also has plans to grow:

"There is a lot of hard work by volunteers to have got to this position and the SWCA want to promote the work... [But] if we are successful in our quest for funders/sponsors I would hope that we could start to bring in additional people for additional coaching and tournament management."

The SWCA has a new web site, which aims to bring together all the news and info about women's cricket in Scotland at under the slogan 'More blue than pink!' We asked Kari what that was all about:

"Sometimes women’s sport gets lost in its championship of how tough it is and how it lacks funding, support and awareness. Unfortunately, there is also a perception that the only thing that might attract a young girl to the sport is a pink bat and pads! We recognise both of these perceptions as not being the whole story."

So, it's about trying to bring some balance to these somewhat juxtaposed notions:

"The strapline, we hope, tells the story - is an association for anyone who has a genuine interest in supporting the sport for women in Scotland."

Finally, we quizzed Kari about the national team - the Wildcats. Having recently seen Ireland compete on the global stage in the Women's World T20, we wondered if she had ambitions of her own:

"Of course I have ambitions for the Wildcats, particularly in my role as Head Coach.  If you ask anyone in the squad if they dreamed of playing in a global tournament, they would say yes. My job, supported by the SWCA, is to try and make that a realistic aim by putting in place programmes and a sustainable pathway that makes it happen."

Can it really happen? Kari is emphatic:

"Yes! Why? - because we are prepared to work hard to try and create the environment - and I have no doubt we have the talent."

Good luck Kari; and thank you so much for talking to us!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Women's #WT20 Wrap-Up

Random thoughts on Fantasy Cricket, Anya Shrubsole, the 'Real' Final and The Game of the Tournament.

Fantasy Cricket

When Martin from Women's Cricket Blog contacted me about putting together a Fantasy Cricket game for this tournament, I thought one of two things might happen: either it would be tumble-weed... or 5 squillion people would all enter at once, crashing my little web server and leaving my reputation for technical competence in tatters!

In the end, 175 people entered, including a nice group of 'Experts' which included the likes of George Dobell and Raf Nicholson from Cricinfo... sorry.... ESPNcricinfo!

And... it was a lot of fun! We'll do it again, for sure; and next time hopefully we'll be able to spice things up even more, with transfers being a popular feature request we'll definitely look to add.

Anyways... congrats to the overall winner: Luff's Legends, with 3041 points - even beating out leading 'Expert' Anthony Morgan, who scored 2856.

Anya Shrubsole

In a way, I don't have anything much to add to what I said after the group stages - Anya basically dragged England to the final single-handed; and she was deservedly Player of the Tournament - a decision backed-up by the Fantasy League stats, where she topped the table with 495 points!

Anya ShrubsoleEnglandBOWL24495
Suzie BatesNew ZealandAR92403
Sarah CoyteAustraliaBOWL8395
Meg Lanning AustraliaBAT129362
Mithali Raj IndiaBAT102303
Dane van NiekerkSouth AfricaAR3302
Ellyse PerryAustraliaAR97301
Charlotte EdwardsEnglandBAT92300
Natalie SciverEnglandAR14295
Salma KhatunBangladeshAR1293

Crucially also, for the first time in what feels like forever, she actually ended the tournament/ series on the pitch and not in the physio's treatment room - she's in the form of her life, and speaking as an England fan... long may it continue!

The 'Real' Final

While I obviously hoped they might, I never really expected England to win this tournament; so I'm not too disappointed by what happened today.

In fact to be fair, the 'real' final was probably the Australia/West Indies semi - the Southern Stars posted a pretty whopping total of 140; and the WI then came within just 8 runs of chasing it down - giving the Aussies a much closer run for their money than England did in the 'actual' final.

But even that still wasn't the Game of the Tournament though...

The Game of the Tournament

This accolade surely has to go to the South Africa/ New Zealand (de-facto) quarter-final - a wonderfully exciting cricket match that had me quite literally on the edge of my seat, even though all I was watching was a flaky 'live(ish)' text feed from the ICC web site. I wonder how good it would have been to actually see it? I and the rest of the world will, of course, never know.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Women's #WT20 Group Stages Review

Random thoughts on Shrubsole, South Africa & video highlights...

Anya Shrubsole

They say in football that the table never lies, so let's take a look at the 'Player Points' table from the Women's Cricket Blog Fantasy League:

Anya Shrubsole390
Suzie Bates303
Dane van Niekerk295
Meg Lanning 297
Sarah Coyte260
Mithali Raj 254
Shabnim Ismail245
Natalie Sciver236
Salma Khatun231
Tremayne Smartt230

The points system should be fairly balanced (it was tested against the last WWT20) but this time one name is way out in front - Anya Shrubsole is, as the players themselves say, quite literally on fire. And although England's latest kit revamp may give the impression that everybody is 'quite literally' on fire, I think it might also have something to do with the hard yards we hear she's been putting-in at the gym since she came back from Australia.

South Africa

When I spoke to South African captain Mignon du Preez last Christmas, I suggested it was very early days for this team, and that a realistic target might be to take a shot at the 2017 (or even the 2021?) World Cup? She pretty-much agreed, so getting to a WWT20 semi-final in 2014 - 3 years before they are aiming to peak - is clearly massive, and you could see it on the faces of the players at the end of the New Zealand game.

Prior to the tournament I debated with some people on Twitter about whether the traditional 'Big 4' (England, Australia, New Zealand & India) had now become a 'Big 5' including West Indies? Or whether indeed West Indies had replaced India in a new 'Big 4'? But now it looks like that's a door South Africa are going to be knocking on very, very soon too! Though given they are playing England in their semi-final... not too soon please Minx ;-)

Video Highlights

I'm sure the ICC think they are doing us all a massive favour with their 3 minute highlights, and I guess they are better than nothing... but frankly it's a close call. There is no commentary or sub-titles, the cameras all seem to be at ground level, and the picture quality is terrible. In this day and age, it really isn't good enough for a show-case tournament and someone needs to stand up and say so! Which I guess is my way of standing up and saying so.. for what little that's worth! (Hint: not much!)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Women's Cricket Set To Become A Winter Sport

Following the model successfully pioneered by women's football's, which recently shifted to the summer so as not to clash with the men's game, the ECB are today announcing plans to relaunch women's cricket as a winter sport, running from October through to March.

The new schedule will mean that venues such as The Oval and Old Trafford, which have traditionally lain vacant for much of the year, will now see cricket all year round, as the women move in over the winter months.

The first new-look women's cricket season will begin in October 2014 with a round of county matches, and culminate in a showpiece T20 Finals Day broadcast live on Sky at the end of March 2015.

International matches will be scheduled over the Christmas period, taking advantage of prime-time holiday TV audiences, and raising the enticing possibility of a Boxing Day Test taking place at Lords for the first time ever.

Clare Connor, Head of Women's Cricket at the ECB, said: "This is brilliant news for the players; plus we'll save a fortune on Danni Wyatt's sunglasses. And if anyone gets cold, they can just put another jumper on!"

England captain Charlotte Edwards said: "Well... look..." before being led away by medical staff to undergo acclimatization training inside an old American-style refrigerator, which head coach Paul Shaw is rumored to have snapped-up for thirty quid on e-bay.