Says she wouldn’t change anything until 10-15 nations are playing top-class white-ball cricket
Belinda Clark believes that the limited-overs formats should remain the primary vehicle for the expansion of women’s cricket, and switching the focus to Tests may not reap the desired results “until such time as we’ve got 10-15 nations that are playing high-quality T20 and then 50-over cricket”.
“I think the focus for the women’s game needs to continue on the shorter formats: T20 and 50-over [cricket],” Clark, the former Australia captain and till recently head of Cricket Australia’s community cricket department, said at Monday’s launch of ICC’s 100% Cricket – Future Leaders Programme. “And I say that because if our objective is to spread the game globally and grow depth in the teams that are competing internationally, you do need a focus and that focus needs to be directed at certain formats.
“Otherwise what will happen is everyone will spend a little bit of money on everything and nothing actually will change.”
At its recent cricket committee meeting, the ICC board decided that Test and ODI status would be given to women’s teams of all Full Member countries. In principle, the move increased the number of women’s ODI and Test teams from ten to 12. Thus, Ireland – who already had T20I and ODI status – and Afghanistan – who are yet to enter a women’s team in any major event – joined their men’s counterparts in acquiring Test status.
Despite having long been Full Members, Zimbabwe, who until the ICC’s announcement only had T20I status, and Bangladesh, are yet to play Tests. Therefore, what the elevation to Test status for Full Member women’s sides effectively means in practice remains unclear, especially considering that only Australia and England have played Test cricket in the last six years. That apart, only South Africa and India have been part of the longest format since 2007.
“I think the success we’ve seen in the last five years has really come from that focus in the shorter formats, and I’d be hesitant to move away from that until such time as we’ve got 10-15 nations that are playing high-quality T20 and then 50-over cricket,” Clark, the first ODI double-centurion in the sport, said. “It’s just a personal view, but I think we’ve seen great success in this strategy and I think it’s too soon to move away from it.”
India, who last played the longest format in 2014, are due to tour England in June-July this year for a multi-format assignment that will feature a one-off Test in Bristol. Alongside prominent Indian players such as Jhulan Goswami and Smriti Mandhana, England captain Heather Knight had welcomed the fixture, stressing the need to “keep Test cricket going in the women’s game”.
Steve Elworthy, the ECB’s managing director for events and special projects, echoed Clark’s thoughts, saying that it was imperative for all stakeholders to not lose perspective of how women’s cricket has grown in the recent years against the backdrop of each format.
“I think the focus is absolutely correct as Belinda is saying,” Elworthy said. “I know that there is a Test match happening this year between India and England in terms of the series that we’ve got being played. But I think your [Clark’s] point is spot on. There will be a point in time when all of these things, where that focus could potentially move. But I think getting a real grip on the sport, [as per] where it currently is in a particular format, is quite key.”
Former West Indies bowler Ian Bishop, now a cricket broadcaster, said he was hopeful that the sport, over time, would take cognizance of its female practitioners’ appetite for more opportunities to play Test cricket.
“It’s quite correct in particularly phrasing it that, at the moment, the focus is where it needs to be most,” Bishop said. “But I do know several young women who yearn to play a Test match, because some of them see Test-match cricket as the epitome.
“Unfortunately, they’ve come up in a time where the women don’t play Test match cricket in most of the nations. So, hopefully down the road, we move to fulfil the dreams and the ambitions of a certain section of very talented women cricketers. So, I hope it’s a continuous journey that won’t just stop at T20 or white-ball cricket.”
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
David Saker on Newlands ball-tampering controversy
The then Australia bowling coach has likened the team’s ‘monumental mistake’ to the underarm incident of 1981
David Saker, Australia’s bowling coach at the time of the Newlands ball-tampering scandal, has said the controversy will continue to taint Australian cricket much like the underarm incident of 1981 has done.
Saker’s comments came in the wake of the publication of an interview in The Guardian, where Cameron Bancroft – the player caught using sandpaper on the ball at Newlands – hinted that there was wider knowledge of the ball-tampering plan within the Australian dressing room beyond the trio of players sanctioned by Cricket Australia: himself, captain Steven Smith and vice-captain David Warner.
Without going into details of what went on in the dressing room, Saker said there was no foreseeable end to the blame game surrounding the events at Newlands.
“Obviously a lot of things went wrong at that time. The finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on,” Saker told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
“There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.
“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.
“You could point your finger at me, you could point your finger at Boof [then head coach Darren Lehmann], could you point it at other people, of course you could.
“The disappointing thing is it’s never going to go away. Regardless of what’s said. We all know that we made a monumental mistake. The gravity wasn’t as plain until it all came out.”
Following the publication of the Bancroft interview, Cricket Australia had issued a statement clarifying it was still open to hearing and investigating any new information brought to light about the Newlands incident, whether from Bancroft or anyone else.
Saker wasn’t sure what a reopened investigation would achieve.
“I don’t think it’d be unfair. I just don’t know what they’re going to find out,” Saker said. “It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away.”
Gender equality campaigners call on Lord’s to cancel men’s Varsity fixture
The Stump Out Sexism (SOS) campaign has called upon Marylebone Cricket Club to revoke its traditional invitation to Oxford and Cambridge universities to play the men’s Varsity match at Lord’s, unless a women’s game is also included.
Replying to a request from the campaign to “step in” to find an “equitable solution” to a disagreement about gender parity in university cricket, the MCC chief executive, Guy Lavender, wrote in a letter on Friday that Lord’s would be “very happy to accommodate a men’s and women’s T20 double header on the same day next year” in response.
But he also suggested the dispute was “primarily a matter for [the] respective universities” and stopped short of committing to intervene to ensure the match came to fruition.
While that response has encouraged the organisers of the SOS campaign, who have noted they won more commitment from MCC in two days than they had from the universities’ cricket clubs in two-and-a-half years, they describe themselves as “not completely satisfied”.
They argue that MCC could go further and use their power as hosts to insist on gender parity. The men’s varsity match has been played (in various formats) at Lord’s for almost 200 years. The women’s match has never made it beyond the Nursery Ground and this year, with Lord’s undergoing a redevelopment, has not even made it that far.
Now, while expressing their appreciation for the MCC offer, the SOS campaign have called for a “further commitment to ensuring the Varsity fixture is equitable”.
The men’s Varsity match, a 50-overs a side affair, is scheduled to be played on May 23. Despite previous requests from figures involved in the SOS campaign (notably the former Oxford University captain, Vanessa Picker) to share the day with the women’s teams (meaning the men’s match would become a T20), the universities’ cricket clubs have been reluctant to do so. While SOS were delighted to gain such a swift reply from MCC, they have now called upon them to go a step further and compel the clubs to comply.
“We do not accept that, as their letter states, this is primarily a matter for the universities,” SOS said in a statement. “The MCC have control over their own calendar and thus have the power to influence the parameters of fixture invitations and to raise the bar further.
“We, therefore, ask the MCC to specify that the offer of next year’s Oxbridge Varsity match being played on the main ground is entirely conditional upon both the men’s and the women’s teams being involved equally. If the clubs continue to insist that any date should be exclusively for the men, the invitation must be revoked.
“A tentative offer of a double-header T20 Varsity event in a future season (which is still contingent on the clubs agreeing to do this) does not make up for years of exclusion.”
While acknowledging that “it may indeed be too short notice” to convert this year’s Varsity fixture at Lord’s into a T20 double-header – not least because is being used as a test event to enable MCC to gain a license to host the first Test against New Zealand 10 days later – the campaigners have requested a “women’s match to be scheduled for later this season.”
Their statement continues: “We request that the MCC utilise one of the days currently unallocated on the 2021 fixture list (of which there are still 95) to schedule at least a 100-ball format match for the women.”
It is perhaps worth noting that, among those taking to Twitter to express their support for the SOS campaign was Beth Barrett-Wild, the Head of The Hundred Women’s Competition and Female Engagement at the ECB. She played in three Varsity matches – all on the Nursery Ground at Lord’s – and also previously worked in the MCC communications department. She is, therefore, not without influence.
In the longer term, though, the disagreement could compromise the future of Varsity cricket at Lord’s. The MCC executive is already acutely sensitive to the club’s reputation towards inclusivity – a reputation they feel is out-dated – and may have little tolerance for being dragged into what they see as someone else’s fight. Their attitude might be summed up with a phrase uttered by many a frustrated parent: if you can’t share nicely, you won’t get to play at all.
MCC have, over the last couple of decades, pumped millions of pounds in university cricket (as sponsors of the MCCU scheme), funded numerous leagues and coaching schemes in the community, started to recognise the achievements in women’s internationals on the ground on honours boards and recently announced the appointment of their first female president (former England captain Clare Connor starts the role in October). As a result, they are more than a little peeved at any suggestion they may be the villains of the piece.
At the same time, the disagreement may also draw attention to the somewhat antiquated tradition of hosting Varsity matches at Lord’s at all. There are many other organisations (not least other universities) with equal claims on the basis of cricketing merit and Oxbridge’s connotations with privilege and entitlement may not be helpful to the modern MCC.
SOS campaigners have also confirmed they will be approaching the cricket clubs at both universities to request “confirmation that they will respond favourably to the MCC’s invitation for a men’s and women’s T20 double-header”. They are also asking “that an apology be made by the clubs for failing to address this issue sooner despite repeated requests”.
ESPNcricinfo contacted MCC and officials at both university cricket clubs for comment. MCC declined; officials from the cricket clubs had not, at the time of publication, responded
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
Women’s cricket – India Women set to tour Australia in September 2021
CA is yet to confirm the make-up of the postponed series, but an announcement is expected soon
India Women are set to tour Australia for a bilateral series in September. The tour, originally comprising three ODIs and slated for January this year, was officially postponed in December 2020. A report on the Cricket Australia website at the time said the series, rescheduled for the 2021-22 season, would be expanded to include three T20Is.
While CA is yet to make an official announcement on the dates or make-up of the series, Australia pace bowler Megan Schutt said on a recent podcast that her side’s next assignment would be against India.
“We have got a tour against India in mid-September,” Schutt said on No Balls: The Cricket Podcast, hosted by Kate Cross and Alex Hartley, in an episode aired on May 13. “So, there’s a couple of camps. I believe we are doing one in Darwin, which will be really cool… and then the tour against India. And then pretty much from there things get crazy with Big Bash, WNCL, Ashes, World Cup, and hopefully the Commonwealth Games.”
It is understood the Australian board will make an announcement regarding the new dates for the series soon.
India are due to tour England next month for a multi-format assignment that gets underway on June 16 with a one-off Test in Bristol. Three ODIs and as many T20Is follow, with the tour ending on July 15. At least five India players – Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, and Shafali Verma – are expected to then stay back to participate in the inaugural edition of the Hundred, which will take place from July 21 to August 21.
A number of India players, including Verma and Radha Yadav, are also set to be part of the seventh edition of the WBBL, which is likely to run in its usual October-November window.
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
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