Women's Cricket

In each of our regular New Bulletins Raf Nicholson writes her observations on promoting women's cricket. You can read the latest edition below.

January 2020

I was so excited recently to finally receive the first copies of my new book - Ladies and Lords: A History of Women’s Cricket in Britain. The book has been a long time in the making - I’ve been researching the history of women’s cricket since 2009 - so seeing the final result has been very satisfying! I’ll be speaking to the Cricket Society at the Union Jack Club in London on Wednesday 22 January about the book - I hope to see lots of you there. 

I was reminded of the importance of spreading awareness of the history of women’s cricket just last month, when the ECB announced that the new Head Coach of the England Women’s team will be Australian Lisa Keightley. Keightley will replace Mark Robinson, who parted ways with the ECB following England’s loss in the Women’s Ashes this summer. A great appointment - but I found it deeply frustrating to repeatedly read in newspapers and on social media that Keightley will be England Women’s first female Head Coach. There seems to be an assumption that women’s cricket has only existed for the past 10 years, when - as my book shows - women have been playing cricket for as long as men have. 

In fact, England’s first EVER Head Coach was a woman - Ruth Prideaux, appointed back in 1988, when women’s cricket was still run by the Women’s Cricket Association. She was by all accounts a brilliant coach. England women’s cricket was still entirely amateur at that time: it was Ruth who pioneered a more professional approach to training, securing funding from the National Coaching Foundation for a five-year intensive programme from 1989 to 1993, which incorporated both sport psychology and physiological testing. 

Ruth’s coaching programme was years ahead of its time; no other sport, including men’s cricket, had utilised sports psychology before. Much of Ruth’s work in these years now serves as the foundation for the elite coaching techniques which are used within both men’s and women’s cricket. Her work also led to the biggest triumph of all - England Women winning the World Cup final at Lord’s in 1993. The players are unanimous in their verdict that it would never have been possible without her. 

I was very pleased that I got to meet and interview Ruth before she sadly passed away in 2016. In fact, as part of the research for the book, I was able to interview about 30 female cricketers and coaches. It was incredible to hear their stories, and I hope I have done them justice in the book. I’ll be sharing some of the highlights of those interviews at the meeting in London on 22 January. 

Sadly, after the ECB took over the running of women’s cricket in 1998, many female coaches left the profession. Earlier this year I researched a piece for The Guardian and discovered the following (quite shocking) statistics: 

- Less than 9% of all Level 2 coaching course registrations annually are by women.

- Across the past 5 years only 32 women have qualified at Level 3, compared to 232 men.

- Since the ECB introduced the new Level 4 coaching qualification 15 years ago, only 7 women have ever achieved the qualification - compared to over 200 men in the same time period. 

Back when the ECB appointed Mark Robinson in late 2015, Clare Connor was actually explicit that only men need apply: "there are no female coaches in cricket out there who have the skills, experiences and the proven track record to be in this role”. 

It is therefore particularly heartening to see that the ECB have this time around decided that the candidate most qualified for the role (described by Connor as “the standout candidate from a varied and highly talented group of applicants”) is female. 

Keightley is currently the Head Coach of Western Australia in Australia’s Women’s National Cricket League, and of Perth Scorchers in the Women's Big Bash League. However, she will be familiar with many of the current side: she was Head Coach of the England Women’s Academy between 2011 and 2015. 

She remains in Australia with the Perth Scorchers for now, with acting head coach Alastair Maiden due to take charge for England’s forthcoming series against Pakistan, to be played in Kuala Lumpur in December. The dates for this series are as follows: 

  • December 9: First ODI, Kinrara Oval, 1.30am GMT

  • December 12: Second ODI, Kinrara Oval, 1.30am GMT 

  • December 14: Third ODI, Kinrara Oval, 1.30am GMT

  • December 17: First IT20, Kinrara Oval, 2am GMT

  • December 19: Second IT20, Kinrara Oval, 2am GMT

  • December 20: Third IT20, Kinrara Oval, 2am GMT

All 6 matches will be live-streamed and available to watch for free in the UK. (I’m looking forward to some sleepless nights as I keep pace with the action!)Keightley will no doubt be keeping a close eye on proceedings in what will be one of the last opportunities for the England players to make a case for themselves ahead of the forthcoming Women’s World Twenty20, which will take place in Australia in February / March.