OPINION: Short Pitches For Women’s Cricket?

During and subsequent to the recent Women’s Ashes Test at Canterbury several people, including the respected BBC commentator Lizzy Ammon, suggested that perhaps women’s cricket should be played on shorter pitches:

Sky Sports News then followed this up with a (ahem…) scientific poll, which suggested quite a lot of people (44%) thought this was a good idea:

It should be noted that the key effect of such a change would be to make the bowling appear faster.

A ball from Katherine Brunt would reach the batsman in [back-of-an-envelope calculations] 0.7 seconds rather than the 0.8 seconds it currently does. And given that it takes the human eye 0.2 seconds to see the ball, that’s actually in reality an almost 20% increase in apparent speed.

A spinner’s ball would obviously be less effected in apparent pace, but the shorter pitch would nevertheless allow them to bowl a more accurate delivery more often.

TLDR: It massively rebalances the game in favour of the bowlers, particularly the quicker ones.

So the key question you have to ask is: Were those who voted to shorten the pitch actually watching the same match as us at Canterbury? Because the game we saw didn’t appear to need rebalancing in favour of the bowlers – if anything it was the other way around! Just one batsman posted a score of more than fifty in the match, and the average run-rates for both teams hovered around 2 for much of the 4 days.

On a more practical level, the idea is a non-starter anyway.

Firstly, it would wreck the game for the current generation of elite batsmen and bowlers, who would never truly adjust after years of playing on the longer pitch.

Secondly, it would destroy the art of swing bowling – a key weapon in the armoury of the women’s game – because those two yards are the critical ones where swing really comes into play.

Lastly, it would require the game to change at all levels of the pyramid – you can’t have girls playing for years on a 22 yard pitch, and then suddenly having to adjust to 20 yards at the elite level. And this is a non-starter – clubs won’t (and to be fair, probably can’t) maintain dedicated women’s pitches, remembering that the pitches couldn’t be shared because the women’s foot and crease marks would be located at a point in the men’s pitch that would be downright dangerous.

So, no – there are a lot of things that you might consider changing about the women’s game… but the size of the pitch ain’t one of them!

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One thought on “OPINION: Short Pitches For Women’s Cricket?

  1. The argument for shorter pitches in the women’s game appears to have no merit. I say “appears” because from reading this article, one might wonder what possible reason there could be for someone to even suggest it. But, there are some reasons (not that they are necessarily very good, and as you say the idea is a non-starter, but I thought I’d put a couple of plus points for it) that have not been considered here.

    In commentating during the Canterbury Test match, one might be forgiven for thinking that there was no other issue for Paul Allott to talk about, so frequently did he bring up the “shorter pitch for women” idea. His reasoning, or rather what I could gather of it from his ramblings, was thus:

    – Spinners. Spinners Beams, and Jonassen (who despite her batting prowess, retired meekly with the ball after failing to take a wicket in the second innings) were failing to do much with the ball in England’s second innings. Turn was too slow, flight predictable and the ball did not carry far enough from bat/pad for catches. At least, it didn’t with Greenway dead-batting everything. Ergo, opines Allott, shorter pitches means more speed, more spin and more carry. This may result in more wickets for spinners but could also give more runs. As spinners already play a large part in women’s cricket bowling-wise though, the game doesn’t need to be rebalanced in their favour.

    – Ball speed/reaction time. It is only true that the batters will find it harder on shorter pitches if their reaction time is already challenged on longer pitches. Assuming women have reactions equal to men, then they already have a time factor advantage on the same pitches, as the bowling is slower. Therefore you could argue that 10% shorter pitches still gives enough time to react to bowling which is somewhere in the region of 15% slower; whilst the ball will be travelling faster at the point of passing the bat and will therefore travel further when hit. Therefore more runs.

    – Running between wickets. Another factor working against the “shorter pitches are harder for batting” hypothesis is that on shorter pitches, running between the wickets will be easier and quicker. Therefore, more quick singles and more runs, less run-outs.

    – If we did magically make pitches shorter, other things being equal, bowlers would lose length and line and batters would benefit in the short to medium term whilst the bowlers adjusted.

    So shorter pitches don’t rebalance in favour of the bowler in every sense.

    But even with this brief selection of considerations, there is little point in changing the length of pitches for women. The logisitical problems are insurmountable, and it would kinda invalidate all the years of history and all the batting and bowling records that had been set to date. It would be better to develop the game as it is, and generate more top quality players who as the women’s T20 game starts to ramp up around the world, will I expect find a way to increase the scores and keep everything ever more exciting.

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