Below is a quick response to Martin’s blog piece he tweeted to me in the week, which makes some valid points about changes to the Women’s County Championships. Have a read if you fancy it and want some context.
Firstly before I go into my thoughts on it, I just wanted to say it is great to have more people putting time and energy into the women’s game, and it is exactly why I love the internet. Also this is why I love having a blog myself, because a 140 character twitter response is not quite enough! So keep it coming Martin!
Anyway my thoughts are this:
I personally would LOVE to see all teams play home and away and extend to 16 matches from a cricket fan’s perspective. However in reality there are a number of underlying factors that I believe effect the possibility of this happening for sometime.
Firstly the majority of the women who play in the county champs will be working in full time employment or full-time studying, and commitment to 16 games plus all the training, travel and preparation time will be challenging and potentially off putting for a number of players.
I know in my prime days (the good old young years when you had the energy 🙂 ) I committed to every training session, every game and anything that could be thrown at you. But in reality once real life pressures hit, it becomes difficult to maintain around other pressures and for me personally that is one of the issues that pushed me to retire from all cricket and only play the occasional friendly.
As much as we might love the women’s county structure to closer mirror the men’s, it is unlikely for a long time as the equivalent male in the county structure would be a full time paid cricket professional, which is a world away from the average female cricketer. Admittedly the players on the international circuit will have more support to make these commitments, however the majority of the players who play, cricket is their hobby and passion and therefore make commitments over, above and beyond to make the teams work.
You have to remember behind the potential 16 games would include additional training weekends, weekly training sessions, more physio and nights away. The costs would impact on the individual through petrol costs etc and for the team in terms of coaching, accommodation, ground hire etc. I agree in an ideal world, we should just find the money as you say, but finance and budgets come into everything.
I think the ECB have done a great job trying to balance the many factors. When I first started playing and I am sure many would remember the women’s county championship took place in 5 days. So everyone would book their holiday, head up to Cambridge, and that was that. There was no championship spread throughout the summer.
As much as I loved that format, (partly because the night out at the end of the tournament was always the best night out of the year 🙂 ) for the cricket, the current structure is a lot more sustainable. It is still right that the county games break for the international structure, however as the game grows, this may change.
I agree last years championships were not the greatest reflection due to the weather, and in my opinion Surrey should have won on points! (Just joking of course, but we did good!) However I would say the rain effected not just women’s leagues significantly, but clubs all over the country and makes it tough to judge the whether the structure and the points system works, because it is not designed to handle such a reduced season.
I think by far the MOST important factor and the BIGGEST challenge for women’s cricket, (which to be honest effects most women’s sports) is the drop out rates. In cricket you lose girls at the transition to secondary school, (approx aged 11), transition to college (approx age 16) and finally drop outs at the end of university (aged 22).
You mentioned a number of challenges with clubs not being able to field a full team. The truth is women’s cricket struggles like many other sports to retain players at the higher age group. It is great that we have initiatives such as Chance to Shine, and Lady Taverners which focus on giving young girls particular pre-16 opportunities to play and compete at grassroots level, and the more girls accessing the game the better. However this doesn’t stop the challenge of how to retain the women in the game at working age.
Cricket has managed to extend it’s offer and found ways to re-engage women back into the game for example through indoor leagues, but this will not necessarily support the growth of women into the county championship. For example the local indoor women’s league reduces time commitment, costs, travel distances etc, but those women would not necessarily want to take part in a traditional county championship to traipse up and down the country especially if they are mums or have families. I have known a few who have managed it, but it is a large commitment.
As much as I love this game of cricket… we all know it is the LONGEST game in history and takes all day plus travel. So yes more women may be re-engaged into the sport, but there will be limited transfer into the traditional cricket structures.
Many things have been done by the ECB to try and address, e.g. restructuring of club leagues with an aim to address some of the underlying issues at the base end of the game, and time will tell how this plays out. There is also a lot more investment into the elite end of the game to ensure that the talent coming through to the national side have increased competitive opportunities, for example the academy side heading off to Sri Lanka this week.
The simple truth is is we need more people to stay in the game. (I know that sounds horrendous, considering I have left myself!), but until we get to the point where more women in their late 20’s to 40’s are regularly playing in club and county cricket, I am not convinced there is room to increase the amount of championship cricket because of the number of factors that need to be balanced. For all I know extending to 16 games could be on the agenda, however I do believe it would need to be done with careful consideration as it could have a detrimental impact on the game.
Again, thanks for sending over the link and keep supporting women’s cricket! 🙂