cricket / long form

Breaking the Boys Club

In recent weeks there have been a plethora of suggestions that women could have a role Imagein Men’s cricket. Many of these have revolved around Sarah Taylor, with The Old Batsman suggesting that she could revolutionise and specialise the role of wicketkeeper in T20 cricket. At 99.94, the author argues that Taylor could be merely the first women out of many to play in the men’s game, making the point that canny medium pace bowlers are useful in T20, and would be so regardless of gender. There was even a thread on Reddit, often a bastion of sexism, where many users talked about how much they wanted to see Lisa Sthalekar as a second spinner for Australia’s tour of India.

At the heart of the question is physicality. Obviously women are equally as capable as men at learning skill, working on technique and putting in training hours, that isn’t in doubt. However, it is undeniable that generally speaking men are simply bigger, more capable of adding muscle mass and more powerful. That has traditionally been the argument of those who say that women should not be playing men’s cricket.

As any aficionado knows though, cricket is more than just a competition of brute strength. Different roles require different specialisations of skills, and as such people with varied body types can play the game at the highest level. In fact, the only roles which require strength and size above all else are power hitters and fast bowlers. Women could conceivably play with men as spinners, keepers, technical batsmen (batswomen?) medium and fast medium bowlers, and captains. There are plenty of jobs to do on a cricket field, and no reason why women can’t do most of them.

I am not, however, of the opinion that this would be an entirely good thing. Just as talented Irish players head to England, leaving Irish cricket on a lower tier, talented women moving to men’s cricket would condemn women’s cricket to permanently operate as a second class sport. The message being sent to women who aspire to top level cricket should not be that one day they can play with men, it should be that their sport is equally as valuable as the male game, rather than just a feeder pool of novelty players.

Rather than looking to involve women in the men’s game, administrators should do more to  actively promote and raise the profile of the women’s game. A fantastic opportunity has been missed with the world cup, which was clearly given less importance than mere bilateral tours between Men’s teams on at the same time. I do not begrudge the likes of Sarah Taylor looking to advance her career in the men’s game, because at the moment those opportunities simply do not exist for women. However, this is the problem that should be addressed, rather than looking to involve a select few women. Only through equality in administration and coverage will any sort of parity between men’s and women’s cricket be achieved.

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