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

Kia Super League: 2017 Fixture List

This year’s KSL will take place between 10th August and 1st September, with the semi and final taking place in Hove, on a Friday to accommodate Sky TV coverage. In all, 6 group fixtures (all double-headers with men’s T20 Blast matches) plus the semi and final will be live on Sky Sports TV, and TMS are also expected to cover most (but possibly not all) games on BBC radio.

Date Fixture Venue
Thurs 10 Aug Southern Vipers v Western Storm Ageas Bowl *
Fri 11 Aug Yorkshire Diamonds v Lancashire Thunder Headingley *
Sat 12 Aug Western Storm v Loughborough Lightning Taunton *
Sun 13 Aug Surrey Stars v Yorkshire Diamonds The Oval *
Tues 15 Aug Loughborough Lightning v Southern Vipers Derby *
Weds 16 Aug Lancashire Thunder v Surrey Stars Old Trafford *
Fri 18 Aug Loughborough Lightning v Yorkshire Diamonds Loughborough
Sun 20 Aug Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning Blackpool CC
Sun 20 Aug Southern Vipers v Surrey Stars Ageas Bowl
Sun 20 Aug Yorkshire Diamonds v Western Storm York CC
Weds 23 Aug Lancashire Thunder v Southern Vipers Liverpool CC
Weds 23 Aug Surrey Stars v Western Storm Guildford CC
Sat 26 Aug Surrey Stars v Loughborough Lightning Guildford CC
Sat 26 Aug Western Storm v Lancashire Thunder Bristol
Sat 26 Aug Southern Vipers v Yorkshire Diamonds Arundel
Fri 1 Sept FINALS DAY Hove *

* = Live on Sky Sports