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Is Women's cricket really on the rise?

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Women's_CricketThe ongoing ICC Women’s World Cup in England has garnered worldwide attention, as it should. Glowing articles and reports praising the rise of women cricket all over the globe have been regularly making the rounds throughout the course of the tournament. And social media is brimming with posts praising the performing women cricketers on each match day, sometimes at the cost of mocking the men’s game. 

However, one wonders how long this euphoria will last. How many will follow women’s cricket matches after the World Cup is over? 

Also worth questioning would be how many people have actually followed the games on television in its entirety. The answers might not be too encouraging. In fact, if you turn your attention away from all the gloss in the media, you will notice how empty the stands have been in several matches during the tournament. 

The harsh truth, that nobody likes to discuss openly at present, is that women’s cricket, barring the occasional global event every few years, hasn’t really taken off as is being projected. A lot of factors have contributed towards this. And while the women’s game has definitely seen some definite progress, it will not move to the next level unless those issues are sorted out.

Glaring issues facing women’s cricket today

The first step that women’s cricket has to take to move to the next level is for it to be taken seriously. That cannot be done unless some things are resolved

 

Test matches in women’s cricket are four-day affairs rather than five and are one-offs instead of being a proper series. What’s even more disappointing is that Tests are hardly played regularly in women’s cricket. Mithali Raj, the highest run-getter in women’s ODI history, has played a mere 10 Tests in her 17-year career. Other women cricketers too do not get to play much Test cricket. England captain Charlotte Edwards has played 19 years for just 22 Tests. Australia’s batting legend Belinda Clark just played 11 Tests in her entire career.

 

This actually means that the women cricket organizers are not really keen on Test cricket and do not see it as a platform to groom women cricketers. Ever since the ICC took over the reins of women’s cricket in 2005, there have hardly been any Tests played. They are almost played as an afterthought. The focus seems to be getting as many 20 and 50-over competitions done as they have better chances of grabbing some eyeballs.

Another thing: women’s cricket matches have relatively shorter boundaries instead of the standard 70-odd metre ones that are seen in the men’s game. Now. Not only is that contemptuous for women, it also sends a wrong message that women cannot hit far hence the boundaries have to be made smaller. 

Cricket is all about learning and mastering one’s skills to utilize them to overcome any conditions that come a player’s way. By making one particular aspect of a game easier so that women can conquer it with more comfort will never help them attain the level of their male counterparts. In fact, much like those Hong Kong Super Sixes games from the 90s, shorter boundaries will allow people to mock the women’s game and not take it seriously.

Then there is also the issue that apart from Australia and England, most of the other teams are playing catching up. South Africa, New Zealand and India have made improvements too, but are very inconsistent. The other top teams simply aren’t competitive enough which results in a spate of one-sided contests.

 

From the previous ten editions of the 50-over the World Cup, Australia has won the tournament six times and England has clinched it thrice. When there is so much disparity in between teams and not enough competition, viewer interest is likely to wane.

 

Taking women’s cricket to the next level

Actually, there is a lot that can be done to make women’s cricket a more attractive package for the viewers and, along with it, also help in its advancement.

For starters, women cricketers need to be trained and developed with the familiarity and endurance to excel in Test cricket first. Training them well with the understanding of Test cricket will make better and more cricketers out of them. Currently, they seem to be trained for the shorter format and naturally do not give too much heed to Test cricket as there are hardly a handful of Tests a women cricketer plays in her career.

More bilateral Test series simply have to be played to make it a more well-rounded sport. The boundaries in all matches need to be of standard cricket lengths, allowing for the variation between grounds. Also, better tri and quadrangular tournaments need to be organized regularly to have more competition and interest. These tournaments should be packaged and promoted well by the respective boards and televised live.

 

Unless we have more interesting bilateral and multi-national tournaments across all formats at regular intervals and on a circular basis, we will only end up talking about women’s cricket during the World Cups, which, frankly, will not do much good to the sport.

 

Looking towards the future

There is no doubt that women’s cricket has come a long way since the first World Cup back in the 1970s. Today, many countries have proper player contracts and the big-ticket matches are even streamed live. The improvement in the overall games of the players in the limited overs format has been pretty solid. Australia and England are playing a brand of cricket which is of the highest quality and there is a lot of potential in several players from other teams as well.

What is required is careful and astute planning for the future to develop women’s cricket further and take it to the next level. The ICC simply cannot just be content with the attention it generates in the media during the World Cups. Because unless that happens, the women’s game will remain only the secondary option, much like an obligation that must be used from time to time rather than a genuine sport that can be truly relished the world over. 

 

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