More than the competition, it's the desire to stay fit that kept Enid Bakewell involved with the game
Enid Bakewell, who represented England from 1968 to 1982, revolutionised women's cricket in an era where there was no televison coverage or extensive reporting of matches. Bakewell was the only woman inducted into the ICC's Hall of Fame during the annual awards held in Colombo on September 15, 2012, making her only the third woman after Belinda Clark of Australia and Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, her former England teammate, to be bestowed with the honour.
"It feels wonderful to be recognised by the ICC," says Bakewell. "Some people tell me it is a little late in life, but I feel fit and fine as I probably did 20 years back, so age is just a number for me."
Bakewell played 12 Tests, scoring 1078 runs at an average close to 60, to go along with her 50 wickets. However, she is best remembered for being one of only five cricketers ever to have scored a century and taken ten wickets in the same match. She achieved the feat in a Test match against West Indies at Edgbaston. She also played 23 One-Day Internationals in a career that spanned close to 15 years. Despite achieving success and recognition, Bakewell, at 71, still represents the Redoubtables Club in Surrey.
"For me, more than the competition, it is my resolve to stay fit has kept me motivated,” she says. “Since cricket has been an obsession since the age of 9, this is the best way to keep fit. I still enjoy playing the game. There is a lot to learn, especially in the Twenty20 format, which I've started following recently. I probably wouldn't have been too good at it because I was way too orthodox."
Amid concerns that women's cricket sees teams play more of One-Day Internationals and Twenty20s, Bakewell feels that the game has really grown by leaps and bounds. But she expresses a concern that Test cricket is being sidelined, not just because of commercial interests but also due to the skills involved.
"I think some teams don't know how to play the Test format,” she says. "Obviously crowds can't spend the whole day, they don't have that much time to devote, which is why the T20 game suits the audience perfectly.
"The women's game has benefited enormously in recent times. Publications like Wisden have done a tremendous job in taking it to the readers. The England and Wales Cricket Board has given grants to the team, as a result of which players have access to good facilities and competent coaches. There are more international games from which you get more experience. That’s’ a very good sign.”
Bakewell lauds the ICC for scheduling the semi-finals and the final of the Women's World Twenty20 alongside the men's. "I think the crowds will be treated to some fantastic cricket,” she says. “It is a great step. Most importantly, the live telecast will be beamed across various continents, which is a very good for the game."
At the same time, she feels it’s important to have a proper schedule, looking at the volume of matches happening at any given time. "To be honest, that is one area that needs to be looked into. I don't keep up with the cricketing schedule.
"My eyesight is becoming sore, and cricket is addictive. So, I tend to play and train to keep myself fit, but I can't continuously keep up with the women's game. There is no question of following the men's game. Way too much cricket.”
But when she finds the time, she doesn't mind watching Sachin Tendulkar in action. "He is a little legend, isn't he?" she says. "It is amazing to imagine he single-handedly brings joy to an entire nation. Not many cricketers can do that, but Sachin is a phenomenon."
Bakewell believes women's cricket still has a long way to go before it becomes lucrative. "With limited scheduling at least in the women's arena, boards don't feel it’s viable to offer central contracts. There needs to be a proper set-up across countries. While some boards look after players, others have some work to do.
"Women cricketers need alternative careers at present, as I see it. It is impossible to survive only with cricket. Some of them give up jobs and relationships in order to play for the country. I think there needs to be a balance and that is still not there.”