The head of women’s cricket in Scotland, Kari Carswell, has told CRICKETher that Scotland’s international future hangs in the balance, due to ECB plans to exclude them from the Women’s County Championship as part of the reorganisation of domestic cricket in England following the establishment of the Women’s Cricket Super League in 2016/17.
As well as being ICC Associate Nations, Scotland along with Ireland and the Netherlands, play as “counties” in England’s domestic competitions – the 50-over Women’s County Championship and the T20 Cup. (Scotland are currently in Division 2 of the County Championship, along with Ireland, whilst the Netherlands lie in Division 3. In the T20 format, Ireland are in Division 1, while Scotland and the Netherlands compete in Division 3.)
However, back in June the ECB announced that 2016/17 would see the introduction of a new Super League; and that whilst the County Championship would continue, the three Associate Nations would be excluded from it.
Scotland boss Kari Carswell described her reaction to the news:
“I have no doubt that women’s cricket in Scotland will continue to move forward regardless,” she told CRICKETher, “but it is a concern to us.”
Carswell stressed that she is sympathetic to what the ECB are trying to do with the Super League:
“It is obviously something needed. You can see that by the recent Ashes series that the step between County Championship to the next level is obviously quite big. So it’s the right thing for them to do.”
And she told us that it would be “absolutely awesome” if any Scotland players were to play Super League, mentioning in particular their highly rated young left-arm orthodox, Kirstie Gordon; and former “Wildcat” Leigh Kasperek, who recently made her New Zealand début:
“Kirstie is part of the development program with the ECB just now. We’ve never held anybody back – Leigh played at Essex and is now playing for New Zealand – so if there’s girls that want to go and play, absolutely!”
But whilst being supportive of Super League, Carswell is very worried for the future of Scotland as an international cricketing nation if they are excluded from the Women’s County Championship, arguing that the opportunity to play regularly as a team is vital:
“Replicating a competitive fixture list of 16 games will be difficult, and is something that we will have to look at. We have absolutely loved being part of the County Championship and I would like to think that we have added something to the program. As an Associate you are trying to get better and trying to do all the right things; but at the end of the day you need to play quality cricket to measure yourself.”
Scotland’s only other option for competitive cricket comes from the European Championship, but Carswell believes this isn’t enough of a foundation upon which to build a national team:
“If we only go back to only playing the European Championship once every 2 or 3 years, it will be a step backwards in my opinion.”
Pointing out that Scotland don’t currently receive any ECB funding, and play all their matches “away” to minimize the travel costs for other counties, she continued:
“We would like to think that we would still easily fit in to a regional set up – a north group would be perfect!”
All hope isn’t lost for Scotland – but Carswell’s pleas betray what a knife-edge this is on:
“We have had conversations with the ECB about trying to stay in – trying to convince them that we can still be part of a regional program. There needs to be a bit more dialogue between us and the ECB; because we would love to stay in it!”
All the recent cricket articles I’ve seen suggest that the ECB are treading a PR and strategic tight rope. They may be hoping that the launch of the WSL will be such an event that the wider impacts will be lost in the fanfare and media frenzy.
Fortunately, there are a large number of supporters of women’s cricket willing to highlight and challenge the wider impact of these top down decisions. Even if the franchises support academies the structure for playing and developing future players will be more uncertain.
The ECB surely have to provide more not less assistance and resources to soften the blow to those outside the WSL. Otherwise why should a county develop a young player to lose them to a franchise academy and how will the counties be able to fund their work at grass roots level if sponsors look to the WSL as the best option for exposure?