At the launch event for the (Men’s) County Championship at Merchant Taylors School last week, Clare Connor stood on stage alongside the bigwigs of the men’s game to celebrate the inclusion of a fourth “major” trophy into the pantheon of English domestic cricket – alongside the (Men’s) County Championship, the (Men’s) One Day Cup and the (Men’s) T20 Blast, we now have the Women’s Kia Super League.
“It’s a visual reminder for the game that we now have four major trophies on offer in our domestic season.”
The following day, Scyld Berry reported to readers of the Telegraph:
“Clare Connor, the ECB’s director of women’s cricket, made the point that counties had ceased to produce a good national women’s team and had to be replaced by franchises.”
Well, no – we can assure you that on Sunday 30th April, players from Berkshire to Yorkshire, and all manner of shires in-between, will walk out onto the fields of England to embark upon the chase for the Women’s County Championship of 2017.
To be fair to Scyld Berry, he was only reporting what he heard… and to be equally fair to Clare Connor, we don’t doubt that what he heard probably wasn’t quite what she said.
But the impression is clear enough – as far as the ECB are concerned, the Women’s County Championship occupies the status of Mrs Rochester to the KSL’s Jane Eyre, and we all remember what happened to Mrs Rochester… right? (TLDR: madness, fire, suicide, blar, blar, blar.)
As if to emphasise the point, at the end of last week, the ECB sent out a press release detailing the international player rosters for KSL2, which (lest we forget) doesn’t even start until after the World Cup, in which the only mention of the word “county” was to confirm that Finals Day will be held at the “Central County Ground” in Hove.
But the fact of the matter is that it is county cricket, with the Women’s County Championship at its heart, which remains the bedrock of the elite women’s game in this country – Div 1 offering 3,920 overs of cricket (including the T2o Cup) compared to the KSL’s 680 overs. We should be shouting from the rooftops… not jumping from them! [Okay… that’s enough Jane Eyre references – Ed.]
But perhaps the real lesson here, however, isn’t for us at all – it is for the fans of the men’s game, who are being told that the coming City T20, designed around the same franchise model as the KSL, won’t downgrade the status of their County Championship.
We were told that too.
In terms of the women’s game I think its true to say that the ECB have never marketed anything below the England team brand until now, so the KSL is a BIG thing and stretches the limited ECB resources for women’s cricket significantly. While on the participation front All Stars Cricket is probably labour intensive too.
The no mans land of this situation is One Day cricket and the delayed launch of this as part of the KSL structure. If that had launched then County Cricket would’ve been on death row. As the ‘hosts’ started to build academy’s (quote from CC on TMS) and a new pipeline for potential England players began.
Instead the ECB still need the Women’s County structure and CAG structure and most importantly the Clubs to feed their pathway and unless the KSL becomes a huge success they always will.
Which leaves me wondering what exactly are the ECB doing exactly for counties and Clubs?
My answer is ‘nothing’ they’re relying on the England Team in the ICC Trophy and KSL II to bring women & girls flooding back into an underfunded and neglected system.
PS Has CC spoke to her counterpart at England Hockey? They had the ‘Back to Hockey’ scheme in place well before the Olympics and its been a huge success.
Whether or not the KSL brings women and girls flooding into the sport, they need somewhere to flood to. To date the large number of county sides has made that possible – and the clubs around the country too. There are only 6 KSL teams so they might accommodate a trickle, but a flood…? It would be possible to interpret the latest words from the top as meaning only a trickle is expected. One has to hope that’s not true, and if it isn’t the KSL structure hasn’t a snowballs’ chance ‘you no where’ of coping, and indeed I doubt they are equipped or interested in real beginners. So they, like England, need ‘feeders’. Neglect them at the sport’s peril for the future. Like so much in politics and business these days the thinking is VERY short term.
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And all in a year when 50-over cricket is going to be very much the focus for England as well. Deary me…whatever ECB decide to go with in terms of 50 overs, be it county, modified county, KSL50 or whatever, it’s time to get on with it and stick with it. At the moment it’s almost like they’re hiding.
As I understand it Lord’s should have at least ten thousand fans for the ICC Final (hopefully with England making that final) and we all know that most of those will be existing players, fans etc.
But shouldn’t the ECB be preparing for the best possible outcome, not just crossing their fingers that the system they have shown so little faith in will work its magic again?
Maybe I’m being too harsh, maybe they have something planned to catch the wave of enthusiasm, but if that is post this summer of women’s cricket I fear the boat will have sailed.