One of the major problems facing Women’s cricket is that whenever there is a men’s game on, people stop playing attention. This situation exists for a number of reasons, such as lack of funding, sponsorship and broadcast money going towards Women’s cricket, though I feel there might be a slightly more mundane explanation that contributes to the lack of attention.
Put simply, cricket journalists are never in the right place when a Women’s match is on, because they are somewhere else following a Men’s match. Interest in the World Cup currently underway in India has been muted in Australia, New Zealand and England, partly because all three nations have Men’s teams currently playing series. If you are a cricket journalist your editor has likely sent you to cover these matches, even though a World Cup should be a huge event. It isn’t though, so let us talk solutions.
To get cricket journalists, fans and sponsors paying proper attention to Women’s cricket, make it easy for them. When a Men’s team has a tour scheduled, have the Women’s teams from the same nations play alongside them. The touring infrastructure would be easy enough to put in place, given that it already exists and would simply need to be duplicated. The ICC and various national cricket boards are currently responsible for cricket for both men and women, so all it would take would be giving Women’s cricket equal priority with Men’s.
Scheduling would hardly be an issue, especially given how short limited overs matches have become. When a Men’s T20 match is scheduled, play a Women’s match at the same ground beforehand. When a Men’s ODI match is scheduled, play a Women’s ODI the day before. Women should also have the opportunity to play test series, which could also be fit around Men’s test schedules.
The current Men’s England tour of New Zealand would be a prime example of how this could work, assuming there wasn’t a World Cup for Women on at the same time. Given the paucity of World Cup coverage, that isn’t a difficult assumption to make either. Last night a T20 was played at 7pm at Eden Park. A game beginning at 2.30 would have been over in time to let Simon Doull do the pitch report, and would have got fans into the stadium earlier. TV coverage wouldn’t be hard, because everything would be already set up. Repeat for the next two T20 matches.
Next consider the ODI matches. These are scheduled with 3 day gaps in between, all in the upper half of the North Island. It would be incredibly easy for a game to be played at each venue the day before, and would fill the pre-game news void for touring journalists.
Tests would be more difficult, though not impossible. Interestingly though there is a large space of time in which the Men will be playing a warm up match. This space would be perfect for a Women’s test match, or at the very least a 4 day match. More long format cricket is crucial for the development of the Women’s game as a whole, as it teaches skills which cannot be learned in limited overs matches.
What would be some of the effects of full Women’s tours alongside Men’s tours? For starters, it would encourage a professionalism in Women’s cricket, making it a more attractive career for any woman seeking a career in sport. It would give fans a much better chance to read about the exploits of their Women’s team, as the journalists would be ideally placed to write about it. Interest in cricket as a whole tends to go up during tours, so it is likely more people would get along to games. The benefits of all of this could be profound in the development of Women’s cricket from niche interest to mainstream sport.