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A Ramble on Women's Cricket
2013 Page 5
The Death of Women's Tests?
By now you will have heard of the new format for the "Ashes". If not here's the way it will go in 2013.
Martin Davies, ever swift with the keyboard, has already given his thoughts on the likely outcome, and indeed, even before reading his piece, my mind had jumped in the same direction. Is this the death-knell of women's Tests I wondered? I hope, as fervently as is possible in one of advanced years, that it is not. We have already seen the increasing numbers of T20 matches erode, to a point anyway, the 50-over format and I ask a few simple questions.
Looked at in this manner, and thus with a view to producing the best players for the future I find it hard to think that anyone would believe other than that 50-over cricket is not only the best training ground but also the better judge of team and player. And then you have the ultimate test of how good you really are. Yes they are not called "Tests" for nothing! A cynic might say that it is not totally surprising that the only two teams left standing in the women's sport in this arena are arguably the best two of the last decade. The rest have not stood the heat and have left the kitchen. This view may be harsh as money, or rather the lack of it, will undoubtedly have played a part too.
T20s can be fun but it's hard to think of them as really cricket. They are more akin to baseball in many ways. Those with good hand-eye co-ordination will do well as will those who have learned their cricket in more traditional forms of the game. As say, I am not arguing they they are not or a lot of fun - or can be - and there's no doubt they have cemented their place. It's more a question of the value to player and spectator of the different forms of the game. My view of T20s is supported in the men's game by the simple fact that many countries chose different squads, sometimes with very few players in both, for T20 and ODIs. Horses for courses so to speak. While both formats have a place in putting bums on seats it is generally the better ODI players who finish up in the T20s too. T20s in themselves do not develop cricketing skills other than perhaps better fielding technique.
And so where for Test cricket? Is it true women rarely, if ever, play matches longer than two days apart from these games? It could be argued no one is prepared for 4-days of 100-overs per day. But then men's county cricket isn't played over five days either and I don't think there's any suggestion of dropping them - not between England and Australia anyway, and tomorrow I will be watching England take on New Zealand at Lord's in this format.
Are we reading too much into this ECB announcement? I can only hope we are, and that in suggesting this is in anyone's mind, we are doing them a massive injustice, for abandoning this ultimate Test in cricket would be a step backward when so many steps have been forward in recent times.
On a lighter Note...
Let's adopt the new idea of points for types of match, I might go with something like Tests 10, ODIs 3 and T20s 1. It would seem pointless (sorry) to award points for draws or ties. This means win the Test and you can only be overtaken by a really convincing performance elsewhere. If this is the way forward, make the Test the real test!! Where I cannot find it in my soul to agree is equating ODIs and T20s with the same point score. In fact I did wonder if 3:1 was a sufficiently large ratio for ODI:T20. Should it be 5:1 or even larger? If you have an opinion, let me know... firstname.lastname@example.org.
And Mark Lane departs...
I have watched the England team under a number of coaches during the last twenty years. None of his predecessors have, in my opinion, grasped the women's game as Mark Lane has. I can for instance remember sitting in a hotel courtyard with the parents of two of the players during a previous World Cup tournament. This was before Mark took over. We all (four of us) wrote out our 11 for the following day. Usually two or three of us would agree, and occasionally all four. Never, however, (never!) did anyone pick the 11 that ran onto the field the following day. Out of, potentially, four different suggestions, no one got it 'right'. You may not, but I found that pretty extraordinary, in view of the huge (spectator!!) experience sat around that table. I am not sure that injuries played a part in the differences either as we had our ears firmly to the ground in that regard. And it was frequently not just one spot that we got 'wrong'.
When Mark took over the seasoned observer could often, although not always, follow his thinking even if the initial reaction might have been surprise or scepticism. If my original feelings had been of doubt, I had to generally admit that his thinking had been right. He introduced players who quickly proved their worth.
Now you would expect someone of Mark's experience to have a better cricket brain than one who has only played school and club cricket, although spent many years watching at all levels - the first game I watched at Lord's involved the three 'W's - and you're probably too young to even know who they are! The surprising thing was not that Mark knew better than me, but that I felt most of the former coaches didn't. Conceit on my part - possibly - probably you may argue - but I found considerable support on the boundary for my viewpoint at many England matches. Mark will be a hard act to follow. I am sorry to see him go and that is not something I have always remarked when his predecessors departed. I wish him well in whatever he does next. He's earned it after a job well done!
Should you play men's cricket? Well I guess it may depend on age and the level at which the guys are playing, but is it a good idea to push yourself when there's plenty of women and girls' cricket to play? The choice could well be a personal matter but rumours are abroad that the England women have been encouraged to do so.
An excellent idea you could argue. They will have to face faster bowling and certainly bowlers who will hate having a 'mere girl' crash them round the park. Or you might be a bowler who will be targeted as, let's face it, few men will wish to be dismissed or even tied down by... yes ... you've guessed it... a 'mere girl'. This should give you some backbone - sharpen up your game - make playing the women's game that much easier.
Having said all that, there are downsides. For instance, Holly Colvin will miss the next five weeks with a thumb broken in a men's game. Now you could argue, and justifiably too, that this could have happened in a women's match. I am not aware of the exact circumstances of the injury, but what I couldn't type was "could equally have happened". Lets' see if this is a one-off. I do hope it is!