In each of our regular New Bulletins Raf Nicholson writes her observations on promoting women's cricket. You can read the latest edition below.
As I write this, Syd and I are gearing up for the final of the sixth edition of the Women’s Big Bash League, due to be contested tomorrow between Sydney Thunder (featuring England’s Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont) and Melbourne Stars (featuring England’s Nat Sciver and Katherine Brunt). I normally struggle to follow the WBBL very closely – it involves too many 4am wake-ups in the middle of a cold winter – but this time around the time difference has been in my favour. All the matches this year are being played at grounds in Sydney, which means that a 7pm start over there is 8am here in the UK and works very nicely. Perhaps they will consider me in their scheduling next year!
I confess, though, that for the first time in my career as a journalist I am seriously struggling with feelings of jealousy. Of course we have all, on occasion, felt faintly envious of England players as they walk out to represent their country – perhaps even casting ourselves in their shoes from time to time, and wondering “what if?” – but I have never before envied their day-to-day existence like this.
It has to do with the fact that the WBBL has, largely, coincided with “Lockdown Two” here in England (the sequel is somehow never as good as the original, is it?) Opportunities to socialise this year have been few and far between in 2020 in the UK, and now (to top it off) it is rainy and cold. Yet over in Sydney all the WBBL teams have formed a bubble, live together in the Olympic village, freely socialise, visit the beach on their days off, and – it almost seems criminal – actually get to hug each other when they are celebrating taking wickets or winning matches! In a recent interview, Heather Knight mentioned that she was having to steal away to her hotel room by herself from time to time “because it can be quite intense with eight teams in the hotel at the same time”. When I read that, I went the same colour of green as her Sydney Thunder shirt.
In all seriousness, I am genuinely excited about the prospect of things returning to “normal” in the UK much sooner than we might have hoped. The ECB have recently announced that England Women will be hosting South Africa and New Zealand in summer 2021, and they are also gearing up to welcome crowds back into the matches. I hope it might yet prove possible to reschedule our first ever Cricket Society “Day at the Women’s Cricket” (originally planned for July 2020) in the not-too-distant future.
Beyond that, 2022 is shaping up to be the biggest year for women’s cricket since… well, possibly ever (I feel more qualified than most to say that, given that I have now spent a third of my life researching the history of women’s cricket). While the ICC have decided to postpone the Women’s T20 World Cup to 2023 (very sensible of them), that still leaves us with a 50-over World Cup in New Zealand, a multi-format Women’s Ashes series, and the small matter of a home Commonwealth Games in Birmingham – the first time cricket has featured since 1998, and the first time women’s cricket has ever done so. Given that the BBC are signed on as the official broadcaster, this is a big opportunity for women’s cricket to be exposed to a new, much bigger audience than it usually gets on Sky.
The ICC and Commonwealth Games Federation recently announced the qualification process for the Games. Somewhat bizarrely, should West Indies qualify (either automatically or via a qualifying tournament) they will then have to hold their own internal tournament to decide which one island will ultimately represent them in the Games. That means that the team which won a place in the CWG will only very faintly resemble the one which takes to the field during the Games, which seems strange to say the least.
Leaving that aside, we also learned that England have automatically qualified simply by virtue of being the tournament host, which is great for home fans. I’m really looking forward to getting along to Edgbaston for a slice of the action in 18 months time.