Sport on TV: Women's revolution keeps the cricket world spinning
Sunday 03 February 2013
As the Women's Cricket World Cup celebrates its 40th anniversary in India, its pioneers could revel in the fact that the tournament predates the men's version.
"We were rather pooh-poohed," reflects Rachael Heyhoe-Flint in History of Women's Cricket (Sky Sports 1, Wednesday). "I don't think the men ever thought it would take off, actually." In fact the men have been kicking up a stink for over a hundred years, what with MCC refusing to admit Heyhoe-Flint and her sisters as members – and the players having to wear ghastly pleated skirts – until the last year of the 20th century. However, in a sense the women have always worn the trousers.
The programme didn't mention that they played a crucial role in the game's development. So wide were the crinolines under their skirts at the dawn of the game that they were unable to bowl underarm and so began the practice of delivering overarm. Just imagine how much easier it would have been to face West Indies in the 1970s and '80s if they had still been rolling the ball along the ground.
Now a new revolution is under way. Sky will show an unprecedented amount of the World Cup live, and such exposure has been crucial in making women's cricket the fastest-growing sport in both England and Australia. It is remarkable to hear the England captain, Charlotte Edwards, say: "I'm incredibly proud that every girl's going to have the chance to play cricket." The Chance to Shine programme has introduced the game to half a million English girls in the space of three or four years.
The inexorable rise of the women's game was helped by the International Cricket Council's developmental arm taking control of it in 2005. They aim to have a million players by 2015, while in the past four years West Indian women have played more cricket than they did in the preceding two decades. They are on the fast track – hopefully not as quick as the men.
Nasser Hussain kept saying the women's game can become boring, which is rather rich coming from him. Former England captain Clare Connor, now the ICC's head girl, argued: "You get more close finishes because you don't have the physical difference so you can't just blast six sixes." Those who promote Twenty20 cricket to the detriment of Test matches should take note: it's not all about big shots. The women are crossing boundaries in their own way. The future may well require a more gentle touch.
As it happened, England lost the first game in defence of their trophy when Sri Lanka won off the last ball. It was decided when Dilani Manodara hit that last ball for six, though she only needed a single. The game keeps evolving.
* So the transfer window shuts for another January, and the car window with it. It has created the practice of interviewing footballers and their managers while they sit behind the wheel, and they don't mind because at least it isn't the cops pulling them over again.
Peter Odemwingie drove all the way down the M40 seemingly for no other reason than to provide a talking point. Maybe more players will follow the example of Mario Balotelli with his camouflaged Bentley. That way they can cruise by unnoticed and won't end up putting their feet in their mouths.
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