As a sport, cricket is all about risk – the bowler who pitches it on a tempting length, inviting the drive; the batsman who looks to go over the top, even while knowing that in this game there are no second chances.
So it is perhaps surprising that cricket’s governing body in this country, the ECB, has been so conservative over the years. In particular they have never got to grips with their most fundamental problem – that in a country where cricket is very-much a second-level sport, there are simply too many teams; tied to an organisational structure that, being based around the ancient counties, is quite literally Medieval.
The women’s game has arguably suffered more from this than the men’s. Forced to adopt the county structure wholesale after the merger with men’s cricket in the late 90s, there were never really enough elite players to support such a broad base, and even now several of the Division 1 counties frequently “carry” players who neither bat nor bowl.
And yet, when change has been suggested in the past, the answer has always been: “We can’t upset the apple cart”; and “Better the devil you know” so “Cling to nurse, for fear of something worse”!
That’s why the new Women’s Cricket Super League is so important – for women’s cricket and maybe yet for the men’s game too. At a stroke, it cuts the Gordian Knot that has bound the game for so long and takes a big leap into the unknown.
For let us be clear, this is a risk. It could fall flat on it’s face before it even gets started. There are certainly parties interested in hosting teams (not all of them current First Class counties) but at least 5 of them are based within a 60 mile radius of London, which might make commercial sense, but would make a mockery of attempts to rebuild a reinvigorated organisational pyramid around the franchises as local centres of excellence.
And even once the system is established, its success is far-from guaranteed. The ECB are putting a lot of money in themselves, and will require their franchisees to support a robust business plan. But four years is a long time in business. People and sponsors come and go; and with the hosts themselves being expected to put in some money to match the ECB’s contribution, it would be remarkable if all six franchises made it through financially unscathed. If you want to know what the results could look like… just ask anyone who follows women’s soccer in America!
But almost because this is a risk, CRICKETher has never felt so excited about the future of our sport. The contracts were great; the Kia’s were great… but both were for the tiny elite. This is for the wider game and for the future. It isn’t just for those who are playing now, but also for those who will contest the Women’s Super League in 2025, the Women’s Ashes in 2027, and the World Cup in 2029.
And if at that time we are looking back on our careers as journalists, covering a robust, healthy game, then we’ll know that THIS was where that journey really started.