The women’s game has really taken off in the last few years, it has received a genuine and purposeful push in that period.
Shane Bond played 18 Tests, 82 ODIs and 20 T20Is for New Zealand from 2001 to 2010. He took 87 Test, 147 ODI and 25 T20I wickets. Bond always kept his best for Australia: dismissing Ricky Ponting in all of the first six ODIs they played against each other; took a hat-trick in Hobart in 2006-07 and also bagged six for 23 in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003
Hardly has the dust settled after a rip-roaring ICC Champions Trophy 2017 than another global tournament is upon on, one that promises as much excitement and thrills as the tournament that preceded it.
This is a packed summer of cricket in the United Kingdom. To some, the main course might have already been served in the form of the Champions Trophy, but try telling that to the ladies that will line up for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, starting this Saturday (June 24).
The women’s game has really taken off in the last few years, it has received a genuine and purposeful push in that period. It is obviously not equal to the men’s game yet in terms of payments, but there has been a recognition of the importance of the quality of the women’s game, and that can only be wonderful news.
Speaking purely from a New Zealand perspective, I am glad that women’s cricket is on the right path. Like the men’s teams, the women too travel business class, and while that isn’t an end in itself, it just reiterates that the women’s game is as vital to the growth of our sport as is the men’s. Because there is franchise cricket for women too these days, with the Women’s Big Bash League and the English league already in play, the pay is more. Consequently, there is a real push from the home boards. The top three – Australia, England and New Zealand – pay their players extremely well, and what that means is that it has created a pathway for a job in the sport.
The women today are on par with the men in looking for professionalism, and already you can see that flow into more professional training and better cricket. It is a product that you want to watch on television, and that is great.
Whether it is men or women, it is cricket, and the more we expose our sport to different ages, to different generations in different parts of the world, the better it is for the health of our sport. Towards that end, the fact that 10 of the Women’s World Cup games are going to be televised live with DRS in motion is a wonderful initiative on the part of the world body.
For any sport to get a bigger boost, you need the big tournaments, the pinnacle events. The good thing is that the women are not competing at the same time as the men because we have seen in the past, especially at the ICC World T20s, that the women’s game can sometimes get overshadowed. This time around, the Champions Trophy is out of the way, and the Women’s World Cup is standing on its own.
Again, from a New Zealand and by extension an Australian standpoint, during the domestic season, women’s cricket competes for attention not only with men’s cricket but also with other sports, the calendar is fairly congested in our summer. But especially for the New Zealand and Australian audiences, and I am sure for the Indian audiences as well, the fact that the Women’s World Cup is standing in its own means that it will be more in the spotlight automatically. And if you want to generate greater interest and awareness, then that is how it should be.
The ten-fold increase in prize-money is another wonderful development, that’s the thing about the ICC events. For New Zealand cricket, be it the men or the women, there is significant money to be won at ICC events. The Women’s World Cup winner takes home US $660,000 – that is huge money any which way you look at it. It will bring about a different element of pressure even if no one will actually go into the tournament looking at what monetary fallouts will eventuate.
I think the New Zealand Women will go well in the tournament. Haidee Tiffen has been the coach for a good period of time, there is a settled look about the side. The captain, Suzie Bates, is an outstanding athlete and one of the best batters in the game, and we have an exciting 16-year-old in Amelia Kerr, a leg-break bowler whose grandfather Bruce Murray played 13 Tests for New Zealand in the 1960s and 70s.
There is not a lot between the top three teams. I expect New Zealand, Australia and England to be joined in the semi-finals by India, who have been playing good cricket of late and won the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in Sri Lanka in February. Once you get to the semi-finals, in a knockout game, it is all about the pressures and the expectations. I believe New Zealand will make the semis at the minimum, and will want to go a couple of steps further, of course.
The one thing that I will look at with keen interest, apart from the quality of cricket and the kind of viewership these games attract, is what impact T20 cricket has had on the women’s 50-over game.
Clearly, it has had an impact on the men’s game. Will there be similar higher scores? If we get good pitches as I expect we will, what will the average score be, for instance? And how much will T20 cricket boost the pace of the women’s game?
I suppose over the next month, we will find answers to these, and more, questions.