T20s are the best platform to popularise the game and to have the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 run alongside the men’s version is a positive
The third edition of the ICC Women's World Twenty20 begins in Galle on September 26, with eight countries fighting it out for the coveted crown.
While the first two editions in England (2009) and West Indies (2010) opened the door for recognition, the 2012 edition promises to further broaden the horizons of the women’s game and allow it to flourish alongside the men's.
With the frequency of Test matches in women’s cricket having reduced, teams are increasingly using the limited-overs formats to popularise the game.
While Twenty20 remains the most commercially viable option, Clare Connor, the former England captain who now heads England's Women's cricket, believes that having the tournament run in parallel with the men’s competition helps to attract larger viewership and broaden the existing fan base.
"Some of the goals of the ICC Females in world cricket strategy are growth, participation and investment," says Connor. "It is unanimously believed that the T20 format will help achieve these objectives. It is proving that it is the best-placed format to attract new participants to the sport due to it being fast, furious and fun. "We can use T20 to raise profile due to the ability to stage men’s and women’s T20 double-headers – whether as part of bilateral series or as part of the ICC World Twenty20,” she adds.
The rising standards of the women’s game, can in part be credited to the increase in the amount of cricket being played.
"In 2008, a total of 66 women’s ODIs and T20Is were played, while in 2011, there were a total of 82 matches," she says.
While the number of matches has increased, the absence of a Future Tours Programme (FTP) means the decision to schedule series depends on agreements between the individual boards, keeping in mind the commercial viability.
"I don’t think we are too far away from having an FTP in place,” says Connor. “We have discussed it at ICC Women’s Committee meetings and for the time being, we are confident that more and more international bilateral women’s cricket is being scheduled. We will continue to revisit it as an area for discussion at future meetings.”
From April 2013, those countries ranked in the top ten must play at least three ODIs and three T20Is, excluding ICC events, in any 12-month period. This minimum requirement was recently approved by the ICC Chief Executives’ Committee, which sent out a strong message from the top about the importance of bilateral women’s cricket.
Of course, the ICC events will remain the pinnacle of the playing calendar. The ICC World Twenty20 in particular throws the spotlight on the women’s game, as the semi-finals and final are played back-to-back with the men’s matches, and in front of a global television audience.
With the world’s best players on show and a number of contenders for the crown, it promises to be an exciting event.