The Women’s Cricket Super League is a massive step in the right direction by the ECB and we are really excited by it. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential pitfalls and a big one is the player selection process.
There are basically 3 “pools” of players: England; overseas and The Rest.
The ECB have already said that they will allocate the 18 contracted England players around the 6 teams – that’s 3 each, if my maths serves; whilst teams will “bid” for The Rest!
Even leaving aside the overseas stars for a moment, there are already two interesting issues here.
The first is so blindingly obvious that I’m sure it won’t actually be a problem: the England players have to be fully assigned before the bidding process for The Rest gets underway, or you risk a scenario where (for example) a franchise selects England Academy glove-butler Carla Rudd, only to find they also get allocated Sarah Taylor from the contracted pool. Result: Rudd spends a lot of time carrying drinks, which isn’t going to do much good for her development as Taylor’s long-term replacement behind the stumps for England!
The second is that the process really needs to be round-robin, like the “draft” systems in place for US sports like NFL and basketball – essentially the equivalent of the old playground line-up where captains take turns to choose.
Anything else, however well you try to manage it, essentially becomes a free-for-all where the Best of The Rest all head in just one direction, preordaining the champions whilst everyone else is left fighting it out not to come last; which might be fun if you’re part of That Team, but will ruin Super League both as a vigorous competition for the players and as an exciting spectacle for the fans.
(It is worth adding here too that a glammed-up, draft-style “bidding day” would be a huge media event by-and-of itself; and could be a great way to launch the competition perhaps?)
So far, the issues we’ve brought to light are all within the capacity of the ECB to solve; but it is regarding the overseas stars that things start to become a bit tricky.
Firstly, their identities won’t be known until quite late in the day, so we will have the Rudd-Taylor problem described above all over again.
Secondly, however carefully balanced the draft system, a couple of overseas signings could seriously unbalance things again very quickly. A team with Charlotte Edwards and Anya Shrubsole and Lydia Greenway would be one thing… a team with those three plus Ellyse Perry plus Dane van Niekerk? Everyone else might as well just go home now!
But this will be especially tricky to manage because the overseas stars (being “stars”) will have demands which will have to be managed: “I’m not playing with X because she sledged me at the World Cup!” “I’m not moving to Y because it’s too far away from my girlfriend!” etc. etc. (Both of these have happened in the past two years in the Women’s County Championship – and in both cases it resulted in the signing falling-through.)
So it won’t be easy for the ECB’s newly appointed Super League General Manager, Jo Kirk. But she is an experienced sports administrator who knows her cricket, so hopes are high and we wish her luck!