Cricket woos women for World Cup

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IT'S SIMPLY not cricket to ignore the fairer sex these days, the men who run the game have decided. The English Cricket Board's decision to use images of a young woman with flowers in her hair to publicise the 1999 cricket World Cup indicates a marked change of attitude towards women and their involvement in the game.

The picture of the bright-eyed, smiling woman was plastered on a flyer advertising the unveiling of the World Cup's strip at a London bar owned and frequented by models.

The event, held at the Fashion Cafe in Covent Garden last week, was attended by the American model Caprice, who could be seen strutting around in the England strip and mingling with cricketers including Alec Stewart and Adam Hollioake.

The appearance came just before members of the Marylebone Cricket Club vote tomorrow for the third time in recent years on whether to allow women into the men-only club. More than a third of members are required to agree, to overturn the 211-year-old rule excluding women.

Whatever the outcome, the board is determined to encourage women to feel involved in the game. Michael Browning, ECB's event manager, said: "We see one-day cricket as a very colourful, vibrant and exciting game. We want to take it out to the non-traditional audiences."

The World Cup is being organised along the lines of a carnival, with matches being played at 21 grounds across the country. "There are an awful lot of women who watch cricket and who play cricket, and the woman on the flyer is just one of a number of faces in cricket which we are using to get this message out - cricket is for everyone," said Mr Browning.

A significant move was made earlier this year to encourage links between men's and women's cricket when the ECB, which originally dealt only with men, merged with the Women's Cricket Association. "I understand that the ECB and the association saw it was much better that women's cricket was involved in the mainstream," Mr Browning said.

The merger has definitely improved things for women cricketers. Cath Harris, media relations officer at the ECB, said: "The co-operation, feedback and help that we now have is superb. It is a big step forward for women's cricket."

Ms Harris, who used to be spokeswoman for the Women's Cricket Association, said the ECB was trying to make the game much more appealing to a wide range of people.

Persuading the MCC to change its policy on women has so far proved a far harder nut to crack. If the vote goes in women's favour tomorrow, it would lead to the election of a limited number of honourary members, or to women as playing members of the club.

Chris Rae, head of marketing and public affairs at MCC, said: "We are hoping for a big response to the ballot."

He said that if the club did vote against women's entry for the second time in seven months it was impossible to say whether or not the question would be raised again in the near future. "There is going to be a new president in October and new committee members, and it will be for them to decide," he said.

According to Mr Rae, the most important question to ask is whether the MCC is a cricket club or a gentlemen's club. "The first factor really should be that we should welcome every man and every woman who plays and supports cricket," he said.

One woman who does support cricket is Caprice, converted since her involvement in the launch of the World Cup strip. She became involved after meeting Alec Stewart, who told her all about the game. "I have never been to a cricket match. It seems like it is quite a traditional sport."

Caprice said she loved the outfits, which she took home with her. "I thought they were brilliant. I think it's going to bring a lot to cricket."

After her experience at the Fashion Cafe, Caprice said she was intending to go to cricket matches next season. "Maybe people don't know that cricket is a really nice day out. You go, take lunch, have something to drink and you have a really great day." Her message to other women not yet converted: "You've got to give it a try. Go along with some friends."