Women’s cricket has a long way to go before becoming mainstream

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    Having sat and blogged through two days of the ongoing Women’s Ashes Test between Australia and England, it’s not hard to see why women’s cricket still has its knockers.

    Let me preface this by saying it’s come along way – 3,000 people rocked up to North Sydney Oval yesterday, as they did on Thursday, and that’s a lot more than maybe was expected.

    The Cricket Australia live stream has been superb, as was the TV coverage on Nine of the first three one day international matches.

    However, there’s an element of me that’s glad I have other commitments on Saturday and Sunday that will prevent me from watching the entire final two days of the match.

    Let’s be honest, the quality of cricket has been well below what we may be used to. Heck, it’s below the standards many were expected after the one-day matches, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

    The pitch at North Sydney Oval has had no gremlins in it apart from the odd ball keeping low. With the exception of some tail-end wickets at the end of England’s innings and Katherine Brunt’s brilliant bowling to get rid of Rachael Haynes last night, the batters have got themselves out with a selection of poor shots and getting bogged down.

    There’s no way around it: 201 overs of cricket across 12 hours for a return of 15 wickets for just 457 runs is boring.

    It’s dull, boring, lifeless cricket. I’d be saying the same if it were the men.

    That’s only just two and a half runs per over, and it only got that high because of some big overs from Ellyse Perry and Rachael Haynes before the second new ball was taken by England at the end of Day 2.

    It’s a different story if the bowers were jumping out of their skin and the pitch was a minefield. The simple fact of the matter is that it’s not. The ball is not doing a lot, the pitch is not providing extravagant bounce.

    Conditions couldn’t be much easier for batting, yet the runs are few and far between.

    The commentators have done a good job trying to bring some life to the action, but even they were a bit turned away by it all at the end of the second day’s play. I mean, there are only so many ways to describe a ‘forward defensive push to cover’ or ‘a shot worked off the pads to midwicket.’

    Now, some of the blame has to go on the bowling team – and in this case, both teams – as well. Right from the first ball of the Test, ring fields have been set with the primary aim seemingly to prevent runs being scored rather than taking runs.

    It’s made life hard for batters to take singles and keep the scoring rates ticking over, but it’s also meant edges are going through the slips and the like.

    Given all the talk of aggressive intent before the Test match from both teams, it’s been sorely lacking across the first two days, both with the ball and the bat.

    It has to be acknowledged that the players don’t get to play many Tests. In fact, the last was two years ago in the last Women’s Ashes series, so there is an excuse for captains Rachael Haynes and Heather Knight to be caught up in setting defensive fields.

    They are used to trying to save runs.

    There’s also an excuse batters can use for not scoring runs. They are suddenly in white clothes against a – well, pink – ball and have four days to play with instead of 20 or 50 overs. It’s new for them and so most have got bogged down.

    Ashleigh Gardner Australia women's cricket tall

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    But there needs to be a better intent from the sides. Maybe you could say the skills aren’t there to score runs, but that would be a lie because we have seen it in the one-day matches.

    When you have Lauren Winfield scoring four off 56 balls, Alex Blackwell making six off 35 and Beth Mooney 27 off 102 after being ten off 70, you have to wonder what the plans are.

    There is no intent to score runs, no intent to keep the matches moving.

    While crowds have been good at North Sydney Oval, they are going to fall away from future Women’s Tests both in the Ashes and not if the standard of play doesn’t improve. This is a momentous occasion, so of course people are going to rock up and watch.

    But what about two steps into the future when the occasion isn’t so huge. What then?

    People go to see a high-quality cricket match. Not to see 450 runs in two days of play when you full well know the players can do better.

    No-one is asking them to score at David Warner rates, but when there are periods of the game with runs coming along in dribs and drabs – like when Australia scored just six off 12 overs during the middle of the second session yesterday – you have to ask why you’re watching.

    It’s boring, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t find cricket boring in the slightest.

    Playing more Tests might be the answer for the women’s side, but until they do and learn how to score runs and make the game have a little bit of intensity behind it, it’s always going to live in the shadow of their male counterparts.

    It’s not now or never, but the women’s revolution in sports is here. It’s time for cricket to pick up its act or be left in the dust.

    Scott Pryde
    Scott Pryde

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1200 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • Roar Guru

      November 11th 2017 @ 7:00am
      Rabbitz said | November 11th 2017 @ 7:00am | ! Report

      Hooley Dooley, you’ve gone and done it now Scott.

      I am a supporter of the Women’s Ashes Series.

      I do agree, wholeheartedly, with you. The trouble is you have crossed the line by criticising women’s sport. So expect the full wrath of womanhood to come down on you.

      It is just not done to infer that the “product” isn’t up to scratch, or that work is needed to make the “package” suitable for a wide ranging and discerning audience.

      I wish you well and hope your “comeuppance” isn’t too severe.

      • Roar Guru

        November 11th 2017 @ 9:42am
        Scott Pryde said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        Ha,

        The biggest thing for me is that if women’s sport wants to be considered in the same sentence as men’s sport, then it needs to be criticised the same Rabbitz. What I have seen for the last two days deserves criticism. It’s been boring, lifeless cricket.

        I’m happy I have an excuse to get out of blogging the final two days of the match. I ran out of ways to describe a forward defensive push to cover in the blog.

        But yeah – people will come out and defend it.

    • November 11th 2017 @ 7:40am
      I ate pies said | November 11th 2017 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      Very very game article Scott. We all know women’s sport is sacrosanct, and the word “‘elite” is misused at will, but to openly criticise it, even though the criticism is legitimate, takes fortitude.

      • Roar Guru

        November 11th 2017 @ 9:44am
        Scott Pryde said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        Oh yes, the defenders will be here in no time at all.

        • November 12th 2017 @ 11:35am
          George said | November 12th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

          Rabbitz and yourself getting these comments in so as to lessen the validity of any criticism you may receive for your article?

    • November 11th 2017 @ 8:36am
      Joshua Butler said | November 11th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      Maybe if the women’s sides had more opportunities to play first class cricket (including test matches), instead of almost solely limited overs games (20 & 50 games), then there would be a sharper match sense involved (when even at state level there is not much opportunity to play first class games, there is bound to be a situation where players are still figuring out what to do in such matches)

      • November 11th 2017 @ 8:47am
        jamesb said | November 11th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

        Agree with that. Have a look at how many tests the players have played in. In brackets are the ages.

        Taylor (28)- 8
        Perry (27)- 6
        Blackwell (34)- 11

        If the girls are not going to get the experience, then it would be very difficult for them to perform at a format where they don’t regularly play.

      • November 11th 2017 @ 9:37am
        Timmuh said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        Agree entirely. On average there is one Test for women in the world every two years. Australia play England in a debased multi-format “Ashes” format, and no other teams play any Tests ever. In the 2010s there have been just two Tests not Aus v Eng; India played England and South Africa (one Test each) in 2014.
        As a result there are no FC games on the domestic scenes either.

        Is it any wonder that captain’s go to the ring field from the beginning. For the games they usually play, that is as attacking as it gets.

      • Roar Guru

        November 11th 2017 @ 9:45am
        Scott Pryde said | November 11th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        Yeah Josh – it’s a fact I’ve acknowledged in the article… Albeit near the end. They need to play more Test and longer form cricket at state level if they ever hope to improve, but administrators better get on the bus in a hurry or women’s cricket will be left behind all the other women’s sports which actually are showing improvement.

    • November 11th 2017 @ 10:17am
      Working Class Rugger said | November 11th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

      I am supporter of women’s sports and the push toward professionalism. But what I don’t get particularly with Cricket is why we have to find an equivalence in formats.

      As pointed out in the article. The women’s game doesn’t feature a whole lot of long form Cricket. And frankly, why should it.

      I’ve hugely enjoyed the WBBL in the past. Yes, the women don’t hit the ball as far or bowl as quick as the men but every contest had two teams of passionate Cricketers competing against the other. Which is what sport should be.

      And it may be just the right fit for the women’s game. Internationally the 50 over format and domestically T20. Certainly doesn’t make them less legitimate as athletes. At least in my mind.

      • November 11th 2017 @ 1:35pm
        Brainstrust said | November 11th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

        What is the reason for them not be playing longer forms?
        It suits women more, test cricket batting is the only major professional team sport where a woman could compete with men.
        They don’t play enough cricket of any format,
        The problem with the Big Bash is 2 hours each innings, doesn’t provide much of a playing opportunity.
        It seems penny pinching. the competition will be sinking more money and training more, and Australia have gone from the clear no 1 in womens cricket to falling behind because of penny pinching,

        • November 11th 2017 @ 2:08pm
          Timmuh said | November 11th 2017 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

          $

        • November 12th 2017 @ 7:56am
          I ate pies said | November 12th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

          There’s no way a woman would be able to compete with the men in a test match. Just imagine Elise Perry facing Mitch Starc. That’d be downright dangerous.

          • November 12th 2017 @ 4:01pm
            Joe Bell said | November 12th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

            Disagree with that. Read this article http://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/1104475/how-far-can-women-s-cricket-go

            The problem is lack of exposure and training at that level. According to people who actually know what they’re talking about it.

            “David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, believes that women facing fast bowling would be no more dangerous than men doing so, and that with training, women could make contact as regularly as men”

    • November 11th 2017 @ 11:11am
      Pope Paul VII said | November 11th 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

      As above definitely not enough test cricket. No wonder they are cautious.

      I love cricket but it can be boring no matter who is playing it.

    • November 11th 2017 @ 11:35am
      Matth said | November 11th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

      I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the limited overs games, but this has been a turgid affair. I think they gave the mic of formats right in playing mainly limited overs cricket, with the WBBL domestically and the 50 over game the World Cup format. There is no need to copy the men.

      • November 11th 2017 @ 3:38pm
        Working Class Rugger said | November 11th 2017 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

        Yep. They should be looking at developing both the WBBL and the WNCL more. Perhaps even maintaining the WBBL franchise brands throughout.

        • November 12th 2017 @ 11:17am
          Timmuh said | November 12th 2017 @ 11:17am | ! Report

          Test ricket is the ultimate, mens and womens, and what the international game grew on – mens and womens.

          Even financially it barely makes sense. Its not as though womens ODIs are pulling 50k crowds worldwide (nor are mens ODIs for that matter any more) and a four day Test doesn’t incur far greater expenses than a three game ODI series. In fact, with gaps between playing days and perhaps travel changing cities the ODIs may well cost more – for very little extra revenue either through the gate or the media rights.

          The use of ODIs in particular – T20 is becoming more financially successful – seems to be in the hope of increasing revenue. The women could reduce ODIs, increase Tests (even to one a tour) and financially not see much difference. And, in the process, bring back the traditional game cricket was built on at the international level. Sadly, and much to the detriment of the sport, administrators have gone too far down the path of destruction to turn back.

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