Coverage Of World Cup Qualifiers Encouraging For Women’s Game

As I write this, I’m watching the live stream of the final of the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers – India against South Africa – via the ICC’s website.

Not being able to be in Colombo myself, the ability to watch the action online is the next best thing – and the coverage has been both high-quality and multi-camera.

Of course not all the games have been shown, but with multiple matches taking place simultaneously, it would have been difficult to offer complete coverage. Importantly, too, the ICC have offered up daily highlights from the tournament.

I’m certainly not averse to giving the ICC some stick when they get things wrong. But it follows that, when they do a good job, we should give them some credit – and ultimately they’ve done a pretty good job with this tournament.

It’s also been encouraging to see such good coverage on Wisden India. Particularly in the early stages, the dedication of Sidhanta Patnaik and Karunya Keshav to offering up some really interesting stories has been fully apparent. I’ve certainly learned a lot from them about some of the lesser-seen teams.

Let’s hope that, when the World Cup itself begins on 24 June, we see a similar commitment to ensuring it receives the coverage it deserves.

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NEWS: Women’s World Cup Qualifying Teams Confirmed

The final round of matches in the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in Colombo has concluded, with the top four teams confirmed as India, South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

These sides will join England, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies to compete for the World Cup trophy this summer.

Team Played Won Points
India 5 5 10
South Africa 5 4 8
Sri Lanka 5 3 6
Pakistan 5 2 4
Bangladesh 5 1 2
Ireland 5 0 0

The tournament results also confirm that the same eight sides who competed in the inaugural Women’s International Championship will go on to fight out the second version of the Championship over the coming four years.

Overall, it’s been a disappointing experience for the other two sides with ODI status, Ireland and Bangladesh, who might both have realistically hoped to break through into the top eight. Ireland failed to win a game in the Super Sixes; while Bangladesh managed just one win, against Ireland.

The tournament concludes on Tuesday with a final between India and South Africa, to decide who takes home the Qualifying trophy.

INTERVIEW: Scotland’s Kathryn White Retires From International Cricket

Jake Perry reflects on the end of an era for Scotland.

As Scotland’s Women arrive home from Sri Lanka and begin to plan for the 2017 season they do so in the knowledge that they will be without the services of their two most experienced campaigners. The retirements of Kathryn White and Kari Carswell (nee Anderson) either side of the ICC Global Qualifier will be keenly felt both on and off the field as an era ends in Scottish cricket.

With a collection of caps second only to Carswell, White has been one of the most consistent performers for her country for the best part of two decades. In 132 appearances she scored 2165 runs at 20.62, with five fifties and a best of 99, and claimed 126 wickets at 22.02. It has been a career full of highlights and the decision to bring it to an end did not come easily.

“It was very difficult,” she said. “But I suppose I got to that point where I realised that having not been selected for Sri Lanka the time was right to make the call.

“I’m thirty-eight now, I have a four year old at home and I work full time, so I was trying to get that balance of full time job, family as well as putting in all my training and it reached that point where something had to give.

“It was hard. Cricket has been a huge part of my life for so long.”

Since her debut in 2000 White has watched the funding and profile of the women’s game change almost beyond recognition. The all-rounder has been part of the Scotland team from its very earliest days and she looks back over the evolution of the side with pride and considerable satisfaction.

“Both myself and Kari know where we started all those years ago, we know how few games we played and how few women were playing at the time,” she said.

“To see where we have got to now, to see the team and the set-up we have, the Under 17s coming up behind us, the regional squads and so on, and then watch us perform on the international scene as we have over recent years is very satisfying.

“In Scotland there is much more professionalism now. The support we get from Cricket Scotland has totally changed over the last five or six years in terms of the facilities that we use, how often we get to meet together and so on. We’ve now got our strength and conditioning coaches, we get help with travel allowances… It’s the things like that that make a huge difference.”

And although sad to no longer to be a part of it, White is excited at the prospect of how the team might continue to develop.

“I think we’re in a really strong position,” she said. “Yes, with 284 caps between us it is a loss losing myself and Kari so close together but there are plenty of girls coming up behind us.

“Abbi [Aitken] has already reached a hundred caps and most of the remaining squad are if not already past fifty caps then certainly nearing it. So there is a lot of experience there and there is a chance now for new people to step up to the plate and produce the goods too.”

As to the future, White will continue to be around the game she loves.

“I’m still going to be involved in cricket. I’d find it really difficult to move away from it totally,” she said.

“I was lucky to get an extra year out of what I could have. I had a potentially career ending injury eighteen months ago and I worked very hard to get back on the pitch. Cricket was so much of my life that when I was almost told that I wouldn’t play again I was determined to fight to get that opportunity again.

“I’m still going to be involved with the Scotland Under 17s as Assistant Coach/Manager. I do a lot of coaching myself down in the Borders, too, and I’ll still be playing club cricket.

“But I’ll miss the friends that you make. Some of the girls that I’ve had the opportunity to play with for Scotland and in club cricket I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, friends that I now have for life.

“Kari, for example, it was a huge decision for her to have to take as well. She has had a fantastic career and I’ve enjoyed every second of being on the pitch with her.

“I’ll miss it all, the team spirit and being together on the field representing your country. There’s really no better feeling.”

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Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and CricketEurope and is a regular contributor to HoldingWilley.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

Thoughts On The Batter / Batsman Debate

The first time my PhD supervisor read a draft of my thesis she highlighted the following quote, from Women’s Cricket magazine’s article on ‘Courtesies’ in 1954:

“If the backing-up batsman leaves his crease before you bowl, it is quite legal to run him out, but it is only sporting to warn him the first time.”

“Interesting choice of language,” she noted. “Why batsman?”

The debate over the choice of language in cricket has recently raised its head again on Twitter, after the commentators at the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers in Colombo queried use of the term “batsman” in the women’s game:

Snehal Pradhan’s view, eloquently expressed in this piece for Wisden India, is that use of the term “batsman” might send a message to young girls that cricket is really a man’s sport, and ensure their continued exclusion.

I’m not convinced – and I’m as feminist as they come.

I, too, was initially surprised to find – when I started researching the history of the women’s game almost a decade ago – that the language used by the English Women’s Cricket Association, from its foundation in 1926, was riddled with references to “batsmen” (not to mention “third man”, “twelfth man” and “man of the match”). This was particularly interesting given that in so many other ways the WCA were the epitome of conservative femininity. They were obsessed with their appearance on the cricket field: there were rules about skirt length and sock colour, and caps were strictly forbidden. When there was a push for players to be able to wear trousers, as recently as the 1990s, there was enormous resistance to a move which would mean that female cricketers “no longer looked like women”.

And yet use of the word “batsman” did not bother them in the least.

Why? Because – just as with the terms “third man” and “twelfth man” – it was seen as part of the terminology of the game. Former international Megan Lear summed it up pretty well in Pete Davies’ book on the 1997 World Cup:

“You don’t call third man third woman, do you? It’s a fielding position, and it’s called third man, and a person with a bat in her hand’s a batsman.”

This was the approach adopted by the WCA in the 1920s; and since then female players have in almost all cases referred to themselves as “batsmen”, indiscriminately using words that – to the casual observer – might look rather gender-specific.

So where has this move towards using “batter” come from? The minutes of the International Women’s Cricket Council tell an interesting story. The issue was first tabled for discussion at the 1985 IWCC meeting, held in Melbourne, and was debated as follows:

“As the media is concerned with altering the cricketing terms for women’s cricket to ‘batters’ etc, a determination by IWCC was requested. After discussion it was agreed that the conventional cricketing terms be retained (eg batsman, manager, 12th man).”

This is extremely telling. The point is that it was the media who insisted on trying to alter the terminology of the women’s game from that of “batsman” to “batter”. It was the media (and still apparently is the media!) who seem determined to pigeon-hole female cricketers into the “batter” box, somehow uncomfortable with the idea of labelling them as “batsmen”. “The press,” the IWCC reported at their subsequent 1987 meeting in London, “still finds difficulty in coming to terms with the present terminology.”

And yet the players themselves rejected this pigeon-holing by the media. To them, “batsman” was the conventional cricketing term – so why should they not use it to describe themselves?

None of this is to deny that language matters. But, by taking up the term “batsman”, the WCA were attempting to ensure that the word (just like actor, waiter and author) would become gender-neutral. In fact the WCA rather anticipated the issues that we seem to be dogged with at the moment: they recognised that trying to insert a word like “batter” into the cricketing lexicon would simply mark the women’s game out as different and strange. Why overcomplicate things? Do we really want those commentating on the women’s game to have to stumble over odd and intrusive new terminology?

I’d rather just take my cue from the WCA founders and continue with the term we’ve got.

In any case, given that we’ve now been using the term “batsman” to describe female cricketers for nearly a hundred years, as far as I’m concerned the WCA have been successful: “batsman” doesn’t suggest a man to me, but any cricketer of either gender holding a bat. Perhaps what we really need to do is to educate the people who don’t know any better about the fact that our sport has its own long and interesting history – and that throughout that history, none of women’s cricket’s pioneers ever felt the need to call themselves “batters”. That’s what I always try and do, anyway, when asked – which I often am – whether it’s okay to use “batsman”.

I guess if people want to use “batter”, then I’m not going to try and stop them (although you will find short shrift with me if you try to use “batswoman” or “batsperson”, I’m afraid). But the people who seem determined to use it – often journalists who pay little attention to the women’s game generally – aren’t those who it really affects.

If the players are okay with it… if the founders of our sport were okay with it… then “batsman” is good enough for me.

World Cup Qualifiers: Ireland Join The Big Guns In The Super Sixes; Whilst For Scotland It’s The End Of An Era

The 2017 Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament moves into the Super Sixes stage out in Sri Lanka tomorrow.

With the initial rounds going pretty-much to form, India and South Africa won all their games to top their respective groups, followed by Sri Lanka and Pakistan in second place, then Ireland and Bangladesh taking the last two Super Sixes slots in third.

The final 3 rounds, in which each team play the Super Sixes teams not in their group – i.e. the ones they haven’t played yet – will determine which four sides will travel to England in the summer for the World Cup.

Ireland are certainly still in with a shout, but they will rue their defeat to Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament, which was probably their most winnable match against the teams ranked above them. Realistically, they now have to beat Bangladesh tomorrow, and Pakistan too later in the week, if they are to make it to England.

On their way home are Zimbabwe and Scotland, with one win apiece, and Thailand and Papua New Guinea, who will be “taking the positives”.

For Scotland it truly is the end of an era, with the announcement that Kari Carswell (née Anderson) is to retire. The 34-year-old is without a doubt the greatest player in Scotland’s (admittedly short) history; and at one point held the roles of captain, coach and director of women’s cricket, before gradually relinquishing them over the past few years. Having recently taken a coaching job in New Zealand, her departure from the international scene was not entirely unexpected; but Scotland will miss her – she was their leading run-scorer in this tournament, and also chipped-in with 3 wickets – and to say she is irreplaceable would, for once, perhaps not be hyperbole.

OPINION: Ireland & Bangladesh In Catch-22

At the half-way (ish) point in the World Cup Qualifiers out in Sri Lanka, the two groups are exactly where you would have predicted them to be: South Africa and India out in front, followed by the other two “Championship” teams, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with the “full-time amateur” sides – Zimbabwe, Scotland, Papua New Guinea and Thailand – propping up the bottoms of the tables.

And in the middle sit Ireland and Bangladesh – the two ODI countries which are not part of the Women’s International Championship circus. As we’ve already seen in the 10-team World T20 last year, these two are effectively in a group of their own – they cruised through the qualifiers for that tournament (which didn’t include any Championship sides) but struggled against the Championship teams when they actually got to India.

Caught in a Catch-22, their exclusion from the Championship means that they don’t get enough cricket against the top teams to really improve; but unless they can improve, they will never break into the Championship, in its current 8-team format, to get that cricket.

Ireland in particular are so close to being good enough right now – on their day, in home conditions, they could beat Sri Lanka and Pakistan, as well as Bangladesh, who they defeated in the final of the WWT20 Qualifiers; but for economic and scheduling reasons, these qualifiers seem mainly to be played in the subcontinent – the Irish players face wearying jet-lag, oppressive heat, and unfamiliar pitches, loading the dice against them.

Equally, if Ireland do pull it off – beat Pakistan and Bangladesh in the Super Sixes, and qualify for England 2017, which would see them play in the Championship for the next four years; that would leave one of Pakistan or Sri Lanka excluded, just as Ireland have been – it might even be the death of the women’s game in that country.

Rumour has it that the ICC were discussing the option of expanding the Championship to 10 teams, giving Ireland and Bangladesh a route forwards. Nothing seems to have come of it; but what we’ve seen in Sri Lanka proves that they have to go back and reconsider.

It isn’t too late to do the right thing… and the right thing would be to expand the Championship to all 10 ODI teams, including Ireland and Bangladesh.

NEWS: Aitken Praises Scotland Performance After Win v PNG

Scotland Women 169 (50/50 Ov – RV Scholes 35, P Siaka 6 for 19) beat

Papua New Guinea Women 162 (50/50 Ov – B Tau 46, K Anderson 3 for 35) by 7 runs.

Jake Perry writes:

Scotland claimed their first win of the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier with a thrilling seven run victory over Papua New Guinea at the Mercantile Cricket Association Ground in Colombo. A tight display in the field featuring two crucial run-outs and three wickets for Kari Anderson was enough to see the Scots home and keep alive their hopes of progressing to the Super Six phase of the competition.

Captain Abbi Aitken was delighted with the character shown by her side.

“It was a tough game,” she said. “It went right to the wire which is never easy but credit to the girls for sticking at it and keeping cool heads.”

“PNG won the toss and wanted to bowl first but we always had the intention to bat and get a big total. We had hoped to put a bit more on the board than we [did] but we knew we could defend that out there.”

“Credit to PNG’s batters, when you’ve got wickets in hand you can afford to go a bit slower at the start. They did that really well and we definitely felt the pressure.”

“But we kept our composure really well and didn’t let them get too close to the mark.”

Player of the Match Kari Anderson, winning her 150th Scotland cap, continued her excellent form.

“Kari Anderson was as reliable as ever,” said Aitken. “She has been a brilliant player for us and hopefully she’ll have a good game against Pakistan as well.”

Scotland play their final Group B match against Pakistan on Monday and after their encouraging performances against South Africa and Bangladesh earlier in the week they will hope to mark the end of the group phase with a notable scalp.

“I think it has to be a real team effort when it’s under these conditions,” said Aitken. “You need every player [to perform] and we [got that] today.”

“Against Pakistan we’ll go out there again, give it our all and see where it gets us.”

(Reproduced with the permission of Cricket Scotland)

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Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and CricketEurope and is a regular contributor to HoldingWilley.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket

OPINION: KSL On TV: A Double-Edged Sword?

Michael Cooper reflects on the pros and cons of Sky Sports’ impending coverage of the second Kia Super League in August.

On 1st February Sky Sports announced that they would be showing live coverage of the first six games of the second KSL season, as well as Finals Day: the first time that women’s domestic cricket will be shown live on UK television. The inaugural season was a success, attracting 15,465 people to the seventeen matches played, and live television coverage is the next step in the development of the league.

The games will be shown as part of a double header with a men’s NatWest T20 Blast match at the same venue, a tactic that has been used previously with women’s T20 games. It is also a tactic that was used in this year’s WBBL and one that proved highly successful. Twelve games were shown live on free-to-air TV, with nearly six million people watching the games and the final attracting a peak of 690,000 viewers. The games were also streamed live via the Cricket Australia website.

Live coverage on Sky will increase the visibility of the women’s domestic game as well as promote the game to aspiring female cricketers. A study by Women in Sport in 2015 stated that just over 10% of televised sports coverage, and only 2% of newspaper sports coverage, is dedicated to women’s sport. So with such a paucity of coverage of women’s sport, this news is a great shot in the arm for the development of the game. The double headers with T20 Blast games may also provide bigger crowds to see the games first-hand and provide players with the potential to compete in atmospheres similar to their male counterparts.

But there are downsides to linking the KSL so closely with the NatWest T20 Blast, the most obvious issue being ticket prices. People who want to go and see a KSL game within the double headers will presumably have to pay considerably more than they would pay to see a standalone KSL game; will this discourage people from coming to those games?

Another issue is whether this will impact the KSL brand? Whereas the Women’s BBL is an extension of the wider BBL brand, the KSL is its own product and should be marketed as such. It thrived in its debut season despite lack of coverage, as people were eager to see more women’s cricket after England’s dominant displays against Pakistan on home soil. The emergence of players like Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Winfield and Danni Wyatt is proof that the women’s game has stars in its own right, stars that deserve to have the stage all to themselves.

While Sky’s coverage of the KSL will undoubtedly prove to be a boon for the women’s game, one hopes that it won’t be in shadows of the men’s game for too much longer.

Michael Cooper tweets at @m_j_cooper82

NEWS: Jess Cameron Makes Her Mark In Historic Aussie Rules Opener

Former Southern Star, and current Melbourne Star, Jess Cameron played her part in the historic season-opener of the new Women’s AFL [Aussie Rules] competition in Australia, in front of a staggering crowd of 24,000 at Ikon Park in Melbourne.

Cameron played for Collingwood versus local rivals Carlton in the opening match of the 8-team competition, which looks set to give the WBBL a fair run for its money as the biggest draw in women’s domestic sport in Australia.

Today’s match was free entry, with hundreds of fans apparently turned away at the gates. As with the WBBL, all matches are being live-streamed.

According to the Guardian’s Minute By Minute, Cameron literally “made her mark” on today’s match in the closing seconds of the first half:

Jess Cameron marks on a tough angle. She becomes the first player to be mozzed by a commentator when described as the best kick in the competition shortly before hitting the post.

Carlton ran-out eventual winners by a wide margin – 7.4 – 1.5.

INTERVIEW: Abbi Aitken targets Super Six as Scotland prepare for Sri Lankan adventure

Jake Perry talks to Scotland captain Abbi Aitken

The line-up for the ICC Women’s World Cup will be completed in Sri Lanka this month as ten teams contest the Global Qualifier for the tournament to be held in England later this year. With only half of the participants confirmed so far, the four teams who missed out in the ICC Women’s Championship will join the six winners of the ICC Regional Qualifiers in a bid to claim one of the four remaining places at the showpiece event to be played in June and July.

Scotland’s women will be in Sri Lanka after an outstanding summer brought them victory against the Netherlands in the European Qualifier as well as promotion to Division Two of the NatWest Twenty20, and as the side now looks to carry that momentum into the upcoming tournament captain Abbi Aitken is both excited and quietly confident about her side’s chances.

“Our preparations are going really well,” she said. “[Coach] Steve [Knox] has brought in a lot of new ideas and training methods and the squad is in a really good place at the moment. We are really lucky to have had access to the facilities of two partners to assist in our training too, Nuffield Health and Tribe Yoga, who have both been brilliant.

“Steve understands the commitments of everybody with work, university, school and so on, so we’ve tried to focus on having at least one full weekend a month away,” she continued. “That’s not always easy with the geographical locations of the girls. We have people the length and breadth of the country from Aviemore to London, but there has been great commitment from everybody.

“The squad has been away to a variety of places. We went to Loughborough, for example, the ECB facilities there are world class, and that was very helpful to us.

“They have been packed, tough, physical weekends, really good sessions,” she said. “We’re definitely preparing well.”

Thirteen of Scotland’s fourteen-man squad have experienced tournament play before, having played at the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier in Thailand in 2015. With seamer Priyanaz Chatterji the new addition Scotland has a number of options on which to call, and for Aitken the ever-growing experience within the squad bodes well both for this tournament and beyond.

“We had an eighteen-man squad to pick from, a very committed, talented group,” she said. “The pool of players we have continues to grow and as it does it becomes more and more difficult to get into that final group. It’s a good problem for us to have, of course, but it does mean at the end of the day that there are disappointed people left at home.

“Unfortunately Annette Drummond has had to miss out. She broke her wrist back in July so was unavailable for selection which is a shame. We do wish Annette the best in her recovery as she is unfortunately still battling with the injury.

“But I’m more than happy with the final fourteen. We have that blend of experience and youth and we’ve also got a good variety of skills in there.

“A number of the girls are also getting experience abroad at the moment,” Aitken continued. “Katie McGill and Kari Carswell are in the middle of a season with Northern Spirit in New Zealand just now. They are playing a standard of cricket which has been brilliant for them, a real eye-opener, and that will undoubtedly be advantageous for Scotland too. Lorna Jack has just headed out to join them as well.

“Fi Urquhart lives in Sydney and is playing a good level of grade cricket out there, and last but not least, of course, Kathryn Bryce is with the Melbourne Stars [at the Women’s Big Bash] just now. It will be brilliant to hear her stories and what she’s learned about how they go about things over there. It’s fantastic for Kathryn to get that experience at such a young age.”

Scotland has been drawn into Group B alongside South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea. After the initial round-robin stage the top three in each group move into the Super Six phase, with the first four qualifying for the final stages of the World Cup and the remaining two retaining – or perhaps gaining – ODI status.

“Obviously there are big names there that everyone will associate with cricket on a global scale. South Africa and Pakistan are two big, big teams and there is nothing but excitement from the girls at the prospect of playing them,” said Aitken. “The opportunities to meet teams like that don’t come around often for us so the chance to put our skills up against theirs, to see what level they are playing at and what we need to do to get to that level ourselves is a great prospect. There are obviously nerves there but being the underdog we have nothing to lose.

“We know Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea a bit more. In the WT20 Qualifiers we came up against Bangladesh and lost, unfortunately, but that experience gave us an idea of where they are and where we need to be, what areas we need to improve on and so on, so tactically we are more aware this time around.

“And Papua New Guinea, we played against them in a warm-up game and won so we can perhaps take a bit more confidence into the game against them.”

After a warm-up match against Zimbabwe Scotland play South Africa on February 8th in the first of four matches to be played over the next six days. The contrast between the notoriously humid Sri Lankan summer and the Scottish winter could hardly be starker, but the experience of 2015, says Aitken, will prove invaluable.

“Thailand was a massive eye-opener for the girls,” she said. “Before we went away we knew that fitness would play a big part but it was only when we were there that we realised how crucial it was.

“Experiencing that has really helped for the upcoming tournament. We know that if anything Sri Lanka is going to be even hotter and more humid so we have really focused on squad fitness.”

The upcoming tournament offers Scotland a rare opportunity to measure themselves against some of the big hitters on the world stage. But this is not a team merely content to make up the numbers. For Aitken qualification for the Super Sixes, and with it the guarantee of ODI status, is the clear objective.

“The squad sat down a few months ago and it was the unanimous decision that that was our goal,” she said. “We know that to do so we will have to beat a team we have never beaten before and a team that are ranked higher than us but we wouldn’t have set it if we didn’t think it was realistic.

“Cricket Scotland’s support has been brilliant with more funding and more resources which is all we can ask for. The squad know that they have to put in the performances to justify that support.”

And every one of those performances will be critical.

“First up we have Zimbabwe in Colombo in our official warm up game,” said Aitken. “They are ranked similarly to us and I feel that we are relatively evenly matched.

“It will be our first game in Sri Lankan conditions as well as our last chance to try out a few combinations, but we will be very much going into that game with intent and knowing that a win will set the tone for the rest of the competition.

“We are setting our standards high in this tournament. We may be the underdogs but we are up for the challenge.”

(Reproduced with the permission of Cricket Scotland)

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Jake Perry writes on Scottish cricket for Cricket Scotland and CricketEurope and is a regular contributor to HoldingWilley.

Twitter: @jperry_cricket / Facebook: Jake Perry Cricket